Ortner Center on Violence & Abuse in Relationships

  • maria cuellar photograph

Maria Cuellar, PhD

School of Arts & Sciences
Assistant Professor

Dr. Cuellar is an assistant professor in Penn's Criminology department. She earned a PhD in statistics and policy at the joint program of the Carnegie Mellon University Department of Statistics and Data Science and the Heinz College School of Public Policy and Management. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physics at Reed College.


Before earning her doctorate, Dr. Cuellar managed a 200-person team at MIT’s Justice and Poverty Lab that implemented the largest JPAL randomized controlled trial in Latin America at the time (70,000 participants) to evaluate the impact of parental involvement on educational outcomes. Working with the EcoScience Foundation, she created the Bus ConCiencia, a mobile laboratory that offers student and teacher workshops in remote towns in Chile.


Dr. Cuellar studies causation in legal contexts and has applied this framework to evaluate the use of scientific evidence in cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome and other forms of child abuse. She is exploring using experimental designs to develop a mechanism that can reduce contextual bias in forensic analysis.

In 2018, Dr. Cuellar was awarded the Norman Breslow Prize, the Statistics in Epidemiology section’s top award presented to young investigators, which is given to papers with both methodological contributions and substantive epidemiological applications.




Cuellar M. Short fall arguments in court: A probabilistic analysis. University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, 2017; 50: 763.


Cuellar M. Causal reasoning and data analysis: Problems with the abusive head trauma diagnosis. Law,

Probability and Risk, 2017; 16(4): 223–239.