Vacant PhD position in neurosciences at UCLouvain/IPSY


PhD student “Understanding the neurocognitive basis of persisting, recovering and emerging language impairment”


Professor Jolijn Vanderauwera is looking for a talented and motivated PhD-student for a full-time PhD position at the Psychological Sciences Research Institute (IPSY) of the UCLouvain. This project seeks to investigate the cognitive and neural basis of different developmental trajectories of specific language impairment (SLI).

Host institute

The Psychological Sciences Research Institute (IPSY) of the UCLouvain consists of approximately 269 members, including 47 teaching and research professors, 109 PhD students, 23 postdocs, 11 staff members, and 79 external researchers and collaborators. The Institute provides researchers with personalized assistance and support in editing, statistics, ethics, access to a participant pool, budget and project management. Testing and experimental facilities include 9 fully equipped laboratories for individual testing, 4 laboratories for group testing, a Psychophysiology Laboratory, an EEG-ERP Laboratory, an Immersive Virtual Environment Laboratory, a Motion and Eye-tracking Laboratory, and a Crossmodal Perception and Plasticity Laboratory. IPSY enjoys an outstanding national and international reputation, and has developed fruitful scientific collaborations with leading universities around the world. More information about the institute is given here:

Professor Jolijn Vanderauwera will start a research line in the domain of developmental disorders of language and communication. Her central research topics are (1) investigating the underlying neurocognitive basis of developmental disorders of language and communication, (2) understanding pathways into successful recovery from language disorders, (3) evaluation of intervention techniques for language and communication problems.


Language development is a natural human process, considered to start from birth and through informal daily interaction between an infant and its parents or caregivers. The development invokes a naturally predetermined language system. While most children learn language effortlessly, some children struggle to learn their native tongue, i.e. they develop a Specific Language Impairment (SLI), for reasons that are to date poorly understood. These language impairments are, like literacy impairments, highly heritable. To date, we know that language impairment can take different developmental trajectories. While in some children the language impairment resolves, other children seem to have a language impairment that persists into adolescence or adulthood. Yet other children show late-onset language impairment. Children in the latter trajectory are especially difficult to detect. Early detection of these children is however crucial, not only for the development of their language skills, but moreover because they are, together with children in the persisting trajectory, at risk for developing literacy problems as well. To accelerate early detection and consequently language intervention, we need to understand the processes leading to language impairment. Although it is clear that developmental language impairment must be a consequence of some sort of neural dysfunction, investigation of these neural correlates has been largely ignored. The present study aims to take an important step forward by gaining novel insights in the cognitive and neurobiological basis
of the three different developmental trajectories of language impairment by means of a large-scale longitudinal study.


- You have a Master degree in speech and language pathology, educational sciences, psychology, cognitive sciences, neurosciences, or related disciplines
- You obtained good grades
- Experience with neuropsychological testing or psychophysical experiments is an asset
- Experience with MRI testing in young children is desired, but not required - Very good writing and language skills in English; - Good language skills in French is an asset; - Good skills in quantitative data-analyses and eagerness to learn these skills - You have good communication and organization skills - You are a team player who can work together with researchers from different disciplines and with the different research partners (daycares, families, children,…) - You are able to work independently and flexibly


- We offer a fulltime employment for one year, which can be extended to 4 years, with the opportunity to obtain a PhD within 4 years
- We offer a stimulating work and learning environment in which you acquire expertise as a multidisciplinary researcher
- Starting date is flexible between October 01 2019 and January 01 2020
- Salary is according to standard Belgian regulations for PhD students (starting at around 1905€ per month net salary)

Specific Requirements
The deadline for the application is not yet defined, and will be around the end of June 2019. However, we invite applications as soon as possible. The interested candidates should email Jolijn Vanderauwera for questions and applications. Please send an email with the subject “Application SLI project” with your curriculum vitae, the name and contact of two referees, a short description of your experience in the field and your fit with the requirements. Informal inquiries are most welcome.