That’s where we come in.The mission of the Shen Neurolaw Lab is to translate advances in brain science into better law and policy. We recognize that the promise of brain science must be balanced against the perils of premature and inappropriate uses. We thus conduct research to better enable lawyers, courts, and policymakers to understand what, precisely, neuroscience can (and cannot) offer.
We study big problems such as the ways in which neuroscience can affect: mental health services; sentencing in the criminal justice system; responding to sports concussions; developing early childhood interventions; litigating brain injury and pain; assessing brain death; brain-based lie detection; the regulation of brain-machine interface and neuromodulation; and the ethics of cognitive enhancement.
The world is our lab: Dr. Shen studying legal decision-making at the Minnesota State Fair.
I am a McKnight Land-Grant Professor and Associate Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota, where I direct the Shen Neurolaw Lab. Born and raised in St. Louis, MO, I attended college at the Univ. of Chicago. I then earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Outside the classroom I am a Masters Track and Field athlete, competing nationally in the 110m and 400m hurdles. For more, see my full bio, my C.V., and my athletics pages.
My wife (also a professor at UMN) and I are proud parents of two young children, featured in this video promoting UMN Law School:
Current and recent lab members include Senior Research AssociateAdam Steiner (Ph.D., Neuroscience); law students Morgan Carlson, Aubrey Strenger, and Ryan Pesch; economists Weiwen Leung and Brian Zurowski; lawyer and political scientist Tom Pryor; and undergraduate psychology students Geordin Crist, Yihan Wu and Wanbing Zhang. We also have collaborators from beyond Minnesota, including Deniz Cataltepe (Harvard, History of Science). For more info, see the lab member bios.
My first job was working in an outdoor musical theatre (the nation's largest) and one of the shows we routinely produced was The King and I. My teaching philosophy is aptly summed up by Oscar Hammerstein's lyrics in that show: "It's a very ancient saying, But a true and honest thought, That if you become a teacher, By your pupils you'll be taught." I've had great teachers in my life, and I try to emulate their enthusiasm and creative, student-centered approaches to teaching.
I taught my first section of Harvard undergraduate students in 2007, and since then I have had the privilege of teaching amazing high school, college, and graduate students. At the University of Minnesota I teach Criminal Law, Evidence, Law and Neuroscience, and Education Law and Policy. I have also participated in Brain Awareness Week, teaming up with Adam Steiner to introduce brain science to grade school kids. On the teaching page you'll find course descriptions, syllabi, and photos such as this (from Brain Awareness Week 2014).
In addition to students, I frequently present to judges. As Executive Director of Education and Outreach for the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience I develop programs to introduce judges to neurolaw. To learn more about our work, you can visit the Network education website.
Have a great idea? Need a partner? Let's talk. I am always open to new collaborators both within and beyond academia.