Life Span Institute - About Us



Discovery in the service of human health and development

Annual Report

Life Span Institute annual reports highlight important research findings, provide metrics, including funding, and detail the activities of the 13 centers and Peruvian affiliate.


The Lifeline is published online three times a year and archived. Life Span Institute stories in the media and features are linked from our top page.

Friends of the Life Span Institute

The Friends of the Life Span Institute was founded in 2004 to further our collective impact on the problems of health and human, disabilities and aging. The development group supports the Friends of the Life Span Investigator and GRA awards.


Investigators, research and administrative staff, graduate and postdoctoral students

The LSI brings together 154 scientists who are affiliated with several academic departments to study human development from its genetic origins to the final stages of life through 114 research projects. These investigators are supported by 196 research and administrative staff members, including 52 graduate research assistants.


Research, training, technical assistance, direct services and leadership

Most of the easy problems in the behavioral and the biological sciences have been solved. Today the important problems are increasingly found and solved at the intersection of many disciplines. The Life Span Institute stands at such a convergence. At the Life Span Institute we know that our mission—to discover knowledge about human health and development—can only be achieved by problem-driven collaborations across many disciplines.

The Life Span Institute’s 13 centers and Peruvian affiliate currently have 102 active programs and projects that constitute basic and translational research, training, direct services, consultation and technical assistance.

Life Span Institute affiliated scientists are recognized not only by competitive funding, but by their academic peers and constituent professional groups with honors and awards each year. They serve in administrative leadership positions at the university and in their fields. They are also called on to testify and consult on public policy issues. Several principal investigators consult with business and industry as well.



The Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies was established in 1990, when the distinguished 67-year-old Kansas Bureau of Child Research joined with the Gerontology Center and other new research groups to form one of the premier research institutes in the nation on human and community development, disabilities and aging. The Bureau was directed for 35 years by Richard L. Schiefelbusch for whom the Institute is named. His appointment to lead the Bureau in 1956 was the beginning of its modern era.

The Institute has had three directors: Stephen R. Schroeder, from 1990 until his retirement in 2001, Steven F. Warren, from 2000 to March 2008, when he was appointed vice provost for research and graduate studies at KU, and John Colombo, who became the Institute’s third director in September 2008.


Administrative and Research Locations

The Institute’s central office is in the Robert Dole Human Development Center at the University of Kansas in Lawrence with components at the John T. Stewart Children’s Center and Malott Hall. The Institute also operates in Kansas City at the Children’s Campus of Kansas City (Juniper Gardens Children’s Project) at
the University of Kansas Medical Center’s Robert E. Hemenway Life Sciences Innovation Center and Center for Child Health and Development and at the University of Kansas Edwards Campus(Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training). A major center is also located at the Life Span Institute in Parsons, Kansas.

Much of the work of the Institute is accomplished in and directly benefits underserved Kansas City neighborhoods and rural Kansas counties. Several projects are collaborations with researchers in other parts of the state, region, country and world and are regional, national or international in scope.



The Life Span Institute attracts more combined federal, state and private dollars than any other designated research center at the University of Kansas, drawing $28.2 million in sponsored project support in FY 20164. Each state dollar brought in $7.77 external dollars this fiscal year.



John Colombo

John Colombo

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

Complete Profile



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