John Colombo, Ph.D.

John Colombo, Ph.D.

John Colombo

Dr. Colombo received his Ph.D. in Psychology (1981) from the State University of New York at Buffalo. After one year at Youngstown State University (1981-1982), and six years (1982-1988) as a research associate with the Bureau of Child Research at the University of Kansas, Dr. Colombo joined the faculty of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Kansas in 1988, and he has been a member of the Department of Psychology since January of 2002.

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.

Colombo served as University of Kansas interim vice chancellor of research from August 2017 to July 2018.

Contact Information


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


Research Interests

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

  • Developmental cognitive neuroscience
  • Nutrition and cognitive development
  • Attention and its development
  • Developmental origins of health and disease
  • Autonomic function and behavior Developmental systems theory
  • Developmental research design and quantitative methods
  • Individual differences in cognition in infancy and early childhood

Professional Service


Wakarusa Research Laboratory

Edwards Campus Laboratory

Carlson / Colombo Laboratory, Smith Center, KU Med Center


1982 Youngstown State University, Research Professorship
1982 Postdoctoral Traineeship, University of Kansas
1983 Election to Sigma Xi
1988 Election to The Psychonomic Society
1989 Charter Member, American Psychological Society
2001 J. Michael Young Outstanding Academic Advisor Award for the Social Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Kansas
2002 Outstanding Graduate and Professional Mentor, Graduate and Professional Student Association, University of Kansas
2002 Chancellor’s Award for Graduate and Professional Mentoring, Graduate and Professional Student Association, University of Kansas
2002 Fellow, Division 7, American Psychological Association
2003 Fellow, American Psychological Society
2005 Recognition for Excellence in Graduate Teaching
Award from the Center for Teaching Excellence, University of Kansas
Nominated and elected to receive this award by graduate students in the Department of Psychology


Fish Oil and Pregnancy ( )
Tracking down development ( )
Formulas for success ( )