Changing of the guard: new LSI leadership

Changing of the guard: new LSI leadership

John Colombo became the third director of the Life Span Institute, established in 1990, on September 29, 2008, after a nationwide search. He had served as LSI interim director since March 1 when Steven F. Warren advanced to the position of vice provost for research and graduate studies at KU. Colombo is a professor of psychology and was serving as the LSI’s associate director for cognitive neuroscience before assuming the interim directorship.

Colombo is also a co-investigator and director of the Participant Recruitment Core of the Center for Biobehavioral Neuroscience in Communicative Disorders and the faculty chair of the Human Subjects Committee on the Lawrence campus. He has also served as KU’s associate dean of the Graduate School and acting chair of the Department of Psychology. He joined the KU faculty in 1988 preceded by six years as a postdoctoral trainee and research associate.

On July 1 Colombo also accepted the co-directorship of the Kansas Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center, a major research component of the LSI for more than 40 years. Colombo replaces Peter Smith, professor of molecular and integrative physiology at the KU Medical Center. Smith replaced Warren as KIDDRC director on the same date.

Colombo’s research interests are in the developmental cognitive neuroscience of attention and learning in infancy and early childhood. His research on infant nutrition and cognitive development with Susan Carlson, professor of dietetics and nutrition, helped convince the two major U.S. infant-formula makers to add nutritional compounds present in mother’s milk to their products. He has recently explored a possible marker of autism that could help identify children earlier. He currently holds, or is a key participant in, grants from the National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Science Foundation.

Some still in a state of denial, LSI faculty, staff and students and others wished LSI Director Steven Warren success on his next challenge on February 26 at the Adams Alumni Center. Warren stepped down from his LSI post March 1 after eight years.

Warren had been handling two major administrative posts when interim vice provost for research and graduate studies was added to his responsibilities in July 2007. He was appointed the permanent vice provost on January 23.

He had returned to KU, his alma mater, in 1999 from Vanderbilt University, to became the KIDDRC and later, the
LSI director in 2000. At Vanderbilt, he became internationally recognized for his contributions to understanding early communication, language development and intervention and the prevention of mental retardation. His scientific leadership, rare administrative acumen, buoyant optimism and clear vision steered the LSI to a new level of well-being and influence in the most competitive climate of its 50-year history.

Warren will continue as an LSI principal investigator on three major studies all funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development. Warren will also continue to be closely involved with the LSI in his vice provost role.