Program on the Future of the Forensic Sciences

A committee of the National Research Council assembled to evaluate the needs of the forensic sciences concluded that, "Forensic science professionals have yet to establish either the validity of their approach or the accuracy of their conclusions, and the courts have been utterly ineffective in addressing this problem." The Program on the Future of the Forensic Sciences at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law works to contribute to the growing effort to move the forensic sciences onto a more sound foundation, and to find ways to improve the law's use of science in litigation both now and as the quality of these disciplines evolves. Much of the latter work is embodied in empirical behavioral science research on how judges and juries understand and make decisions using scientific or technical evidence proffered in court.


Michael J. Saks

Regents' Professor of Law and Psychology
Faculty Fellow, Center for Law, Science & Innovation

Michael J. Saks’ research focuses on empirical studies of the legal system, especially decision-making; the behavior of the litigation system; and the law’s use of science. Professor Saks is the fourth most-cited law-and-social-science scholar in the U.S., and has authored approximately 200 articles and books. Courses he has taught include criminal law, evidence, law and science, property and torts.

Professor Saks is an incoming member (February 2011) of the National Conference of Lawyers and Scientists, a joint committee of the American Bar Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

He has served as editor of the journals, Law & Human Behavior and Jurimetrics, president of the American Psychology-Law Society and chair of the Section on Law and Social Science of the AALS. For a decade he taught in the University of Virginia Law School's LL.M. program for judges, Duke Law School’s “Judging Science” program and at the National Judicial College, and taught law professors at the Georgetown University Law Center, as well as numerous continuing education programs for attorneys, judges, and scientists.

Before joining the College in 2000, Professor Saks was the Edward F. Howrey Professor at the University of Iowa. He was on the staff at the National Center for State Courts. His work has earned numerous awards and been cited in a number of judicial opinions, including by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dawn McQuiston
Associate Professor of Psychology, Social and Behavioral Sciences

Dawn McQuiston is an associate professor in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Division of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University.
Dr. McQuiston’s research centers on the application of psychological science to issues relevant to the legal system, specifically involving the study of jurors’ evaluation of expert evidence, extra-legal factors in courtroom decision-making, and the reliability of eyewitness testimony. Her research in collaboration with Michael Saks and Jonathan Koehler investigating how factfinders respond to forensic evidence in the courtroom is supported by a grant from the National Institute of Justice.
Dr. McQuiston regularly publishes her research in both psychology and legal journals, and has been invited to present her research across the country. She teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses in Statistics and in Psychology and Law, and regularly guest lectures at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. She is also the former director of New College’s Masters Program in Psychology.


Nicholas Schweitzer

Assistant Professor, Social and Behavioral Sciences

Nicholas Schweitzer is an assistant professor in the Social and Behavioral Sciences division of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University.

Dr. Schweitzer’s research programs focus on the empirical study of the law and legal system. His first area of research deals with how individual and situational factors affect people’s judgments of violations of law and legal procedure, and his second area of research examines the impact of experimental, statistical, and neuroscientific evidence on the judicial process.

Dr. Schweitzer’s research has been published in both law and psychology journals, and has been cited by the National Academy of Sciences. He has received research funding from the National Science Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the American Psychology-Law Society. In addition to his research, Dr. Schweitzer teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in quantitative research methodology and statistical analysis, and has received two university-wide teaching awards.

The website for Dr. Schweitzer’s lab, the Law and Social Psychology Research Group, can be found at