Skip to content

Meet Francis

I am a Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota, and a Teaching Faculty Member at Harvard Medical School in the Center for Bioethics. I a faculty member, Chief Innovation Officer, and immediate past Executive Director of the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior at MGH. I also served as Executive Director of Education and Outreach activities for the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. In fall 2020 I was a Florence Rogatz Visiting Professor of Law at Yale Law School, where I co-taught Criminal Law with Judge (Ret.) Nancy Gertner. In Fall 2017, I was a Visiting Professor of Neuroscience at Virginia Tech University’s School of Neuroscience, teaching Law and Neuroscience. I served as a member of the Neuroethics Subgroup of the National Institutes of Health Advisory Committee to the Director BRAIN Initiative Working Group, and I speak nationally and internationally about the emerging intersection of law, ethics, neuroscience and AI.

I direct the Shen Law: Law, Ethics, Neuroscience & AI. Our motto is: Every story is a brain story, and you can learn more here.

Before joining the faculty at the University of Minnesota I was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Tulane University Law School and The Murphy Institute; a Visiting Scholar at Vanderbilt University Law School; Associate Director of the MacArthur Foundation Law and Neuroscience Project; and a Lecturer at Harvard University.

I received my B.A. from the University of Chicago (majoring in both English and Economics), my J.D. from Harvard Law School (where I did my clinical work in a local district attorney’s office), and my Ph.D. in Government and Social Policy from the Harvard Government Department and the Harvard Kennedy School (completing a dissertation combining political science, psychology, public policy, and law). During graduate school I was a doctoral fellow in the Harvard University Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy, supported by the National Science Foundation. From 2007-09, I was a teaching fellow, lecturer, and assistant director of undergraduate studies in the Harvard Department of Government and received five Certificates of Distinction for Excellence in Teaching from Harvard’s Derek Bok Center. I also spent a summer teaching high school student at the Junior State of America.

I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, where I attended New City School, The College School of Webster Groves, and St. Louis University HIgh School. I am a practicing Catholic, have taught Sunday School in different parishes, and I’m a member of the Catholic Criminal Justice Reform Network (CCJRN). I was named after St. Francis Xavier, and in graduate school i discerned becoming a priest in the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). In Minnesota I was active with Anselm House, which cultivates Christian community on the UMN campus.