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Nelson Named Professor of Education

Charles NelsonPhoto by Fred Field

Charles Nelson has been named a professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education to begin on July 1, 2014. He will continue as professor of pediatrics and neuroscience and professor of psychology in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, as well as the Richard David Scott Chair in Pediatric Developmental Medicine Research at Children’s Hospital Boston, where he directs the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience.

“Chuck Nelson has contributed his significant expertise in brain and behavior development to Ed School endeavors in the past, whether through working closely with the Center on the Developing Child, contributing to the development of the Ph.D. in Education, or serving as a mentor and adviser to HGSE students working in his lab,” Dean James Ryan said. “Through this joint appointment, Chuck will now teach a new course on cognitive and brain development as they relate to developmental disabilities, support the work of the Mind, Brain, and Education Program, and advise even more master’s and doctoral students. I’m delighted that Chuck Nelson will be deepening his relationship with HGSE in these ways.”

Nelson has played a key role already at the Ed School where he has worked with the Center on the Developing Child since 2006, was instrumental in the development of the Ph.D. in Education, and has served as a mentor and adviser to many HGSE students.

“I have a long standing commitment to the Mind, Brain, and Education Program, having mentored more than a dozen students who have worked in the lab over the years,” Nelson said. “I hope to increase that commitment now that I will have one foot firmly planted on the ground in HGSE.”

Nelson’s research focuses on brain development and its relationship to behavior development in children. One of his many groundbreaking studies examined the effects of institutionalization on 136 Romanian orphans, finding that children living in state-run orphanages had lower IQ scores, poorer language development, and an increased risk of psychiatric disorders. The study has been used around the world by organizations like UNICEF, USAID, and the World Health Organization to shape policies on orphaned and abandoned children. Nelson’s ongoing research on autism and related disorders will inform education practice and policy.