PUBLISHED:August 08, 2016

Skene '14 named AAAS 2016-17 Judicial Branch Fellow

Pate Skene ’14 has been named the 2016-17 Judicial Branch Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science & Technology Policy Fellows program.

Skene, an associate research professor of neurobiology at Duke University who studies the neural mechanisms involved in making legal decisions, is only the second fellow and the first laboratory scientist assigned to the judicial branch since the program was established in 1973.

During his fellowship Skene will be based at the Federal Judicial Center (FJC) in Washington, D.C., where he will contribute to ongoing research projects, including the way courts manage the use of scientific and statistical evidence in complex litigation and applying insights from cognitive neuroscience to understand judicial decision-making.

The fellows program, according to a statement from the AAAS, facilitates the association’s mandate to advance science and serve society and helps connect science and technology with public policy. Skene, whose fellowship begins in September, is among 266 scientists and engineers who will spend a year serving professionally in federal agencies and congressional offices. Thirty-five fellows will serve in Congress and 230 in 16 executive branch agencies and departments. Skene is the sole fellow assigned to the judicial branch.

“Alumni of the Science & Technology Policy Fellowship program are uniquely equipped with both policy know-how as well as advanced expertise in science and engineering. Fellows go on from the program to contribute to the welfare of the nation and citizens around the world,” said Cynthia Robinson, who directs the AAAS program.

 “The AAAS fellowship is a perfect opportunity to join my experience in science with my legal interests in courts and judicial decision-making,” said Skene, who began his JD studies in 2010 and continued his neurobiology research throughout law school. “Spending a year based at the FJC and in the judicial branch is also an important way to ground my academic work in the concrete experiences and concerns of judges in the federal courts.  

”A particularly fun aspect for me is that there will be some familiar faces around, in the form of some Duke Law classmates working close by,” he added.  Caryn Devins ’13 is the 2016-17 Supreme Court Fellow based at the Administrative Office of the Courts. Connor Reardon ’14 is clerking for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Skene’s research into how people evaluate guilt in the context of a criminal trial was featured in the spring 2016 issue of Duke Law Magazine.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science, as well as Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, a digital, open-access journal, Science Advances, Science Immunology, and Science Robotics. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes nearly 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals.