Our Team

Amy Shields
President, Partner 

Amy has over 25 years of experience in the marketing research industry and is responsible for leading our team of research experts, providing strategic leadership, setting best practices, and overseeing day-to-day company operations. She holds a Professional Research Certification (PRC) from The Insights Association and is a trained moderator.

From 1995 to 2008, Amy was an executive with the original Nichols Research, Inc. In the ensuing eight years, her experience included three years as a corporate researcher and five years as an independent marketing research consultant. She has been an industry spokesperson through multiple publications, speaking engagements and her work on industry standards and ethics. As a strong advocate for the marketing research industry she has worked with multiple organizations including the Marketing Research Association (now The Insights Association), the Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA), the Advertising Federation, and numerous universities.

A prior editor of Alert! Magazine, she is the recipient of several industry awards and has appeared on numerous media outlets including NBC’s The Today Show, ABC30’s Action News and NBC’s KSEE24 News.


Michael Mermelstein
Executive Vice President, Partner

Michael’s principal focus is on overall company-client relations, retention, growth, and operations. Michael has more than 30-years of experience in the marketing research industry, including as an entrepreneur in consulting services, qualitative marketing research, national and international field management, business development, and political polling.

He is a trained RIVA moderator and holds a B.A. in history and political science from State College of NY at Oneonta. He is also the recipient of several industry awards including MRA’s (now The Insights Association) highest recognition, the Honorary Lifetime Member Award. Michael is a past MRA Chairman of the Board and Chair of the Advisory Board, and since 2007 has been an active member of the Board of Directors for the Marketing Research Institute International (MRII), a distance learning program for the survey and opinion research profession offered through the University of Georgia.


Stephen Zuppas
Chief Financial Officer, Partner

Steve is responsible for Nichols Research’s financial operations and overall strategic planning and has over 25 years’ experience in finance and the marketing research industry. Previously he has served as CFO to a national political polling / quantitative research firm, and as Controller for one of the nation’s largest early childhood education firms. He is also the founder and board member of an issue advocacy organization specializing in southeast European affairs.

Steve is a CPA, member of the Maryland Society of Accountants and a graduate of the University of Maryland. His interests include listening to live music and travel. A native of Washington, DC he resides in the Maryland suburbs with his wife and son.


Sami Biggs
Vice President of Operations

Sami began her career in marketing research in 2001 and over the years has worked in multiple areas of the profession. As Vice President of Operations, she works closely with the Directors of Marketing Research team and the recruiting department and is actively involved in the day to day operations of the company. Sami has experience managing all types of B2B, medical and consumer projects and is an expert in national and online recruiting.

She is a passionate and dedicated professional who has a creative research approach which continues to build meaningful and strong client relationships. In her spare time, Sami enjoys traveling and spending time with her family and friends.


Grace La Mer
Vice President of Quality Assurance
Facility Director — Fremont

As Vice President of Quality Assurance, Grace oversees the implementation and compliance of company-wide best practices and policies in the day to day operations of the company. She ensures the adherence to of quality standards and internal controls, resulting in optimal staff performance and quality deliverables to both team members and our clients. She is responsible for overseeing the accuracy of all materials, project information, and data. With her 20 years of experience at Nichols Research, Grace has a depth of knowledge encompassing all aspects of quality assurance as it pertains to the marketing research industry.

In addition to her role as Vice President of Quality Assurance, Grace serves as the Director of our Fremont facility and assists with on-site research projects.


Paul Valdez
Vice President of Research Facilities
Facility Director — San Francisco

Paul oversees all research facility operations and is the Director of our San Francisco facility. He has been with Nichols Research from its early days, becoming one of the company’s public ambassadors and leaders. With a positive mindset at the forefront, he embodies and encourages innovative, compassionate and creative solutions and creates meaningful and successful experiences and outcomes for our clients, research participants, and staff.

His experience stems from the numerous and diverse insights gained by the various positions he has held at Nichols Research; from obtaining data through various methodologies to directing hundreds of research projects.

Paul has served on several committees of The Insights Association (formerly the Marketing Research Association (MRA)) at both the local and national level and has served as Chairman of the Board and Executive Committee for its Northwest Chapter. He has earned and maintained a Professional Researcher Certification (PRC) since its inception and has been a recipient of several industry awards. He has extensive experience overseeing our company’s jury research services, and is a member of the American Society of Trial Consultants (ASTC).

“With all these professional ambitions and accomplishments, the balance that I receive in life is due to the innate passion for my family, friends, urban biking, and contributing to my community in San Francisco.”


Jennifer Dawson
Senior Director of Marketing Research
Facility co-Director — Fresno

With over 28 years’ experience in the marketing research industry Jennifer has managed and directed numerous studies using quantitative and qualitative research methodologies for both small and Fortune 500 companies. She prides herself for her hands-on work ethic, ability to organize, prioritize and work calmly under pressure, and she always meets her deadlines. Jennifer has assisted clients across an array of industries derive meaningful, actionable insights from the entire customer lifecycle.

Prior to joining Nichols Research, Jennifer worked 25 years for a full-service market research company, learning all aspects of the industry beginning with conducting telephone interviews and recruiting groups. Her experience entails successfully managing a 50 station CATI call center.

She is an active member of The Insights Association (formerly the Marketing Research Association (MRA)) Northern California Chapter, the American Marketing Association (AMA), and holds a Quantitative Expert Professional Research Certification (PRC).


Will Camacho
Senior Director of Marketing Research
Facility co-Director — Fresno

Will is a Senior Director of Marketing Research for Nichols Research and co-Director of our Fresno facility and call center. Will has been with Nichols Research for 10 years and is skilled at managing the most challenging projects towards successful outcomes while fostering excellent client relations. His responsibilities include oversight of our call center, staffing, database management, and overall quality control. Will is an independent filmmaker and an accomplished artist “when time permits”!


Mai Tolentino
Director of Marketing Research

Mai has extensive consumer marketing research experience on both the client and supplier side of the industry, including vast international work for large multinational corporations. Hard working, open-minded, adaptable, and resilient, she has a love of learning and is always ready to explore uncharted territories. She is self-achiever with a client-focused attitude that ensures successful project outcomes and long-term relationships. Motivated by her love for “everything efficient” and “a driving process to greatness”, Mai’s passion is in helping our clients achieve their goals. Mai holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and is working towards a certification for Data Science.

What brings Mai joy? Traveling, good food, the Peloton bike!


Harrison Hunter
Director of Marketing Research

As Director of Marketing Research, Harrison specializes in bridging the gap between our clients and our recruiting staff to ensure successful, well-recruited projects. He comes to Nichols Research with experience conducting ethnographic research on the deaf community affiliated with the California School for the Deaf. In addition to administering in-depth interviews in both English and American Sign Language, he produced a documentary ‘The Sound of Silence’ based on the study and his findings.

Harrison is a graduate of The University of California, Chico, is proficient in ASL, loves to travel, and is never afraid to jump into something new. 


Amanda Castillo
Facility Manager — Sunnyvale / San Jose 

Amanda manages our Sunnyvale / San Jose facility and oversees our clients’ needs for their studies conducted at the facility. Her responsibilities include client and respondent relations, project logistics, and overall facility maintenance. She has a passion for collaboration and helping others which has aligned her with the value driven and customer focused role of Facility Manager.

Before joining Nichols Research Amanda worked as a Marketing Assistant and as a Data Analyst where she garnered in depth insight as to how market research affects the business development process. Her experience includes research conducted for a prototype Bluetooth technology product. 

Amanda holds a B.A. degree in International Relations from San Francisco State University. Her personal passions include interior design, architecture, health, and yoga, and she is working towards becoming a licensed yoga instructor.


Ryan Lopez
Field Director

Ryan oversees all field projects for Nichols Research. He has experience in multiple aspects of marketing research garnered over his 20 years at Nichols Research including stints as a recruiter, call center supervisor and as project director for consumer, B2B and medical studies. He has served previously as the Sunnyvale Facility Director and specializes in fostering superb client relations.

Ryan has over a decade of experience overseeing the field division. He has managed multiple transit surveys, airport intercepts, medical surveys, mystery shops, taste tests, product placements, and several other methodologies.

His other areas of specialty include leadership development, database development, business development, analysis and executing top-line and executive summary reports.


Mulu Fuimaono
Director of Accounting

Mulu is responsible for all day to day company accounting activities including general ledger, client invoicing, accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll, and cash management. He has been with Nichols Research since 1990 and has had a front seat in witnessing the company’s evolution and growth over the ensuing years.

As a key member of the administrative team, he supports all internal staff and is skilled at managing myriad client service related requests. Mulu holds an AA degree from Pasadena City College and attended San Jose State University as a business major.


Marlo Zhang
Assistant Facilities Manager

Marlo is Assistant Facilities Manager based in San Francisco. He has a wide range of experience from various industries and brings to the Nichols team an abundance of creative ideas, solutions, and professional skills. He began his career with Nichols as a Field Interviewer before transitioning to his current position. He also has held tandem responsibilities as Assistant Manager of Nichols’ Field research projects. He takes pride in being a mentor to his teammates and has seen projects through from start to finish while developing positive client relationships.

Marlo has a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts and has won awards in regional and national conferences, galleries, and artist residency programs. He has held previous positions with museums and galleries as well as major institutions such as the San Francisco Botanical Gardens and General Motors’ Cruise.

Having a family history and interest in teaching and education along with a heart for interpersonal development, Marlo takes great pride in bringing together a tight-knight team of employees. Possessing a true joy in sharing knowledge and a natural gift for learning, he is at home with any challenges set before him. “My hobby is learning. I can’t turn off my eager brain and that works for me just fine.”