The Research Academy team

Our team is a big part of what makes the Research Academy special. We’re passionate about research, great at what we do and bring a wealth of experience to the job.

We have all have been researchers for years. Between us, we’ve worked for a wide range of clients, including SMEs and FTSE 400 companies, universities, government agencies and charities. All of us are actively practising researchers too, so we are constantly applying and revising the ideas that we teach.

Many of us have taught the Market Research Society’s MRS Advanced Certificate within research agencies, the MRS Diploma at the University of Westminster as well as other research courses at other universities. And both our Managing Director and our Research Director have a Masters in Applied Market and Social Research, which is an MRS-accredited degree.

Click on a name to find out more about each Research Academy team member.

Mia Lorenz, Managing Director (Business)
Mia LorenzMia worked as Lecturer on the University of Westminster’s MA/MSc Applied Market and Social Research from 2006 to 2011. She helped to integrate the MRS Diploma into the MA/MSc in 2009, and was responsible for delivering the MRS Diploma curriculum. Mia also led four of the eight MA/MSc modules. At research agency YouthSight, Mia coordinated the in-house training programme, and in 2012 helped the company become an accredited provider of the MRS Advanced Certificate.

 While at the University of Westminster, Mia conducted freelance research for a number of education and public sector clients. As an Associate Director at YouthSight, her clients included the Institute of Physics, the Student Loans Company as well as FTSE 400 companies. Although Mia has presented research at public events and published several studies, most of her work has been confidential to clients.

 Mia is a Certified Member of the Market Research Society (CMRS) and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She holds an MA in Applied Social and Market Research and a PG Cert in Higher Education from the University of Westminster.

Siavush Shahrizad, Managing Director (Education)
Siavush Shahrizad

Siavush founded the Research Academy with Mia, and has worked in research for 10 years.

He was a researcher and lecturer at a variety of higher education institutions. For example, at the University of East London, he taught statistics to masters and PhD students. At the University of Westminster, he worked on a variety of research projects such as zero carbon emission, ischaemic heart disease, or youth employment. He has also been a freelance researcher who worked with a variety of clients such as Action for Bow, YouthSight, or Corus Entertainment.

At the Research Academy, Siavush is the Course Leader for the Advanced Certificate, and the Module Leader for Unit 3 and Unit 5 of the Diploma. Siavush moreover manages projects for the research arm of the Research Academy, RA Consulting. Here he works on national and international projects with clients such as the University of Cambridge. But Siavush also does a lot of work in other sectors. He currently works with a variety of start-ups such as Greenwood Burns (fintech). Also, Siavush himself has launched a tech start-up called Poor Alexander that helps people do well in interviews.

Siavush holds a BA in Sociology from Goldsmiths, University of London, and an MSc in Applied Market and Social Research from the University of Westminster.

Paula Sparling, Programmes Administrator
Paula SparlingPaula Sparling has worked in administration for more than 20 years, with a career spanning the Magistrates Court, the Environment Agency, Huntingdonshire District Council and, most recently, Cambridge University. At Cambridge, Paula spent almost 13 years administering a Master’s Programme, which was an interdisciplinary degree spanning two departments that offered students the opportunity to pursue a professional practice degree or a research degree.

More recently Paula has been self-employed, working for a variety of SMEs. She holds Level 3 and 4 NVQs in Business and Administration from Cambridge College.

Becky Lewis, Academy Associate
Becky Lewis has worked in research for over 15 years.  She graduated with a BA (Society, Economy and Social Policy) and an MA (Applied Population Research) from the University of Exeter. Becky completed the MRS Diploma in 2002 and has since trained and coached junior researchers to successfully complete both the MRS Advanced Certificate and the MRS Diploma.

Becky currently works as an independent insight consultant. As well as managing projects for clients such as the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), she has a particular focus on analysis and insight. From data consolidation to finding the story, Becky helps clients make sense of their data and present it in an engaging way.

Previously Becky was Research Director at YouthSight, where she managed the research team. Her clients included brands (Red Bull, RBS), government bodies (Ofsted, BIS, YPLA, Student Loans Company) and a number of universities. Prior to this she worked in the Insight Team at London Underground and the Social Division at BMRB.

Becky is a Certified Member of the MRS and member of the Independent Consulting Group (ICG).

Melanie Cohen, Academy Associate
Melanie has worked in market and social research for 15 years. She has worked across the breadth of the industry – agency side, client side, freelance and as a lecturer. She has served in both a business and a consumer context, managing qualitative and quantitative research projects with stakeholders, consumers, service providers and employees. Melanie has worked in the heart of government at the Central Office of Information (COI), informing and driving communication and marketing campaigns. She also spent many years in the private sector, managing research projects on behalf of leading high street brands, such as Selfridges, Arcadia group and Lloyds TSB.

Melanie taught research methods on the University of Westminster’s MA/MSc Applied Market and Social Research from 2010 to 2013, which encompassed the MRS Diploma.

Melanie is a Member of the Market Research Society. She holds an MA in Sociology and Social Research from the University of Leeds.

Lou Stacey, Academy Associate
Lou has worked in research for 19 years. Her career in research started on GfK’s graduate programme, where she was trained in B2B research and worked with clients such as BT, Royal Mail and Virgin Atlantic. Lou then worked at Continental Research as Director of Advertising and Brands Research, serving a wide variety of clients, including media owners and advertising agencies, such as Capital Radio, Classic FM, GMTV, and OMD. Her passion for brand and communications research led her to the Central Office of Information (COI), where she worked to  strengthen a range of campaigns, from TV and press to those with significant digital components, including social media.

At COI, Lou had extensive training in behavioural economics and its application to research. She has delivered workshops to research agencies to help build understanding of this cutting edge area. Most recently, she has been developing a workshop for entrepreneurs on testing business ideas at concept stage.

Lou is a Member of the Market Research Society. She holds a BSc in Environmental Science from Queen Mary, University of London.

Chris Taylor, Academy Tutor
Chris Taylor, Academy AssociateChris has more than 20 years of experience in research, consultancy and marketing services management. He has a long track record in academic research, having studied research methods at Aston University and subsequently worked as a policy analyst and as a senior lecturer in a business school. After moving into service management, Chris led market strategy at Staffordshire University and at Northumbria University and held a similar post in an NHS training college. He has also worked outside of the academic sector, spending four years as a management consultant in an advertising agency and has run his own research consultancy since 2007.

Chris’s research experience extends across quantitative and qualitative methods. He works on a wide range of projects but particularly enjoys those concerned with market positioning, competitive strategy and new product development. He has a particular interest in complex, multi-methodology research.

He is a member of the MRS, CIM and the Independent Consultants Group. Chris holds a BSc (Social and Physical Sciences), an MSc (Social Aspects of Science and Technology), an MPhil (Marketing) and a CertEd.

Marianne Highwood, Academy Tutor
Marianne has worked in market research, in both agency and client side roles, for almost 30 years. She started off as a political and social researcher at Gallup and then moved on to lead the research team at a tourism and leisure consultancy. Marianne also worked with the market intelligence team for Smiths Medical, focusing on women’s healthcare. Currently she works as a freelance market researcher specialising in customer satisfaction, employee engagement and new product/service development.

The “other half” of Marianne’s professional life is spent in the classroom. She is a Sessional Lecturer in the Business School at Canterbury Christ Church University. Prior to this she spent four years at Bromley College of Further and Higher Education, where she was Programme Director and Senior Lecturer in the HE Business Department.

Marianne has a BA (Hons) in Canadian Studies from the University of Toronto (her home town) and a PhD in Political Science from the University of Rochester (New York, USA). She also has a Post-16 PGCE from the University of Greenwich. She is a longstanding member of the Market Research Society.

Liz Montgomery, Academy Tutor
 Liz MontgomeryLiz has worked in research for over 30 years, starting out as an interviewer. She has a BA in Geography from the University of Oxford, and after working for some years, obtained a PhD in Applied Geography from the University of London.

Liz has run her own micro research consultancy for 8 years, working directly for clients such as Legal & General and the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, as well as for agencies such as Kantar Millward Brown and GfK. She conducts a broad range of UK and international projects across businesses and consumers, using both qualitative and quantitative techniques. She particularly enjoys helping clients understand their customer experiences, shopper behaviour and new product development. Before setting up her own business, Liz held the position of director at several companies including, most recently, GfK NOP (now GfK UK) and RI (now TNS). This included the role of Global Account Director for LG while at RI.

Liz has developed and run training courses at GfK NOP, as well as for the Business Intelligence Group (BIG). She also worked on the mentoring programme at GfK NOP. She Certified Member of the Market Research Society and a member of Association for Qualitative Research (AQR), BIG and the Independent Consulting Group (ICG).

Rebecca Green, Academy Associate
Rebecca GreenRebecca has more than nine years hands-on experience in applied market and consultancy, having started her career with a specialist cultural consultancy and joined DJS Research in 2018. She has worked with some of the UK’s best known cultural, heritage and charitable institutions, designing and leading innovative research programs to inform every aspect of their work.

She is passionate about understanding what makes people ‘tick’ and frequently draws upon her knowledge of academic psychology to inform her approach to research. She’s knowledgeable in both quantitative and qualitative research, with particular expertise in the development and application of audience segmentation systems.

Rebecca is also an experienced qualitative moderator and trainer, supporting staff at a variety of institutions to deliver their own quantitative and qualitative data collection; and developing an in-house training program to introduce new researchers to the theory and practice of market research. We’re lucky to have her share this depth of knowledge with our students taking the Qualitative Module (Unit 4) of our MRS Diploma course.

Rebecca holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and Philosophy from the University of Nottingham, as well as the MRS Diploma in Applied Market & Social Research.