Life Span Institute - Profile

John Colombo, Ph.D.

John Colombo, professor of psychology, became the third director of the Life Span Institute September 2007. Colombo also serves as the director and principal investigator of the University of Kansas Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center.

Professor Colombo has previously served the University of Kansas as faculty chair of the Human Subjects Committee on the Lawrence campus (1993-2012), as an associate dean of KU’s Graduate School (2001-2004) and as acting chair of the Department of Psychology (2005-2006). He joined the KU faculty in 1988 preceded by six years as a postdoctoral trainee and research associate.

Along with being an active participant in the Cognitive and Brain Science and Developmental Science doctoral programs within the Department of Psychology, he is affiliated with three interdisciplinary doctoral programs: Child Language, Clinical Child Psychology and Neuroscience.


Professor Colombo’s research interests are in the developmental cognitive neuroscience of attention and learning with a special focus on early individual differences in these areas and how they relate to the typical and atypical development of cognitive and intellectual function in infancy and early childhood. He conducts research in laboratories at the KU Edwards Campus and the KU Medical Center, as well as at the Wakarusa Research Facility in Lawrence.

His research on infant nutrition and cognitive development with Susan Carlson, University of Kansas Medical Center professor of dietetics and nutrition, contributed to the decision to add nutritional compounds present in mother’s milk to infant formula in the U.S. He is currently the co-director of a longitudinal clinical trial studying the effects of prenatal supplementation with DHA on cognitive development through childhood.

He currently holds, or is a key participant in, federal grants from the National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. His work has also been supported by the National Science Foundation, by foundation grants (e.g., March of Dimes) and by industry (Mead Johnson Nutrition and Martek
Students and Postdocs

I generally admit students interested in pursuing a graduate degree in my laboratory through the Developmental or Cognitive doctoral programs in the Department of Psychology. However, I also advise students in the Child Language Doctoral Program and in Clinical Child Psychology. Occasionally, postdoctoral positions are available through federal research or training grants, or through fellowships funded through the Ruth Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (F32 mechanism) at NIH.

National Service

Editor, Infancy

Past Associate Editor for Child Development, the flagship journal of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD)

Fellow, American Psychological Association (Division 7: Developmental Psychology)

Charter Member and Fellow, Association for Psychological Science

Member, Psychonomic Society

Editorial Board member for the following journals


A list of my publications (with many links to .pdf copies) can be obtained at my home page at ResearchGate.

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The Life Span Institute (Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies), University of Kansas

Director and Principal Investigator, University of Kansas Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (KIDDRC)

Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo


The Life Span Institute (The Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies)
1052 Dole
1000 Sunnyside Avenue
Lawrence,KS 66045

Psychology Department
426 Fraser Hall
1415 Jayhawk Boulevard

Wakarusa Research Laboratory

Edwards Campus Laboratory

Carlson / Colombo Laboratory, Smith Center, KU Med Center

The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, gender identity, gender expression, and genetic information in the university’s programs and activities. Retaliation is also prohibited by university policy. The following persons have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policies and are the Title IX coordinators for their respective campuses: Executive Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity & Access,, 1246 West Campus Road, Room 153A, Lawrence, KS 66045, 785-864-6414, 711 TTY (for the Lawrence, Edwards, Parsons, Yoder, and Topeka campuses); Director, Equal Opportunity Office, Mail Stop 7004, 4330 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Fairway, KS 66205, 913-588-8011, 711 TTY (for the Wichita, Salina, and Kansas City, Kansas, medical center campuses).