Applied Curiosity Research conducts applied research in community settings to inform evidence-based decisions for our clients. We founded ACR to pursue our scientific curiosity and lead meaningful research to promote learning, health, and social impact.
Co-founder Gerad O’Shea leads a small team of dynamic and insightful researchers, data analysts, and moderators, supported by expert advisors. Our streamlined structure affords efficient project management, communication, and collaboration by ensuring all team members are deeply knowledgeable of projects from the proposal phase to the final deliverable.
BRANDI BACKUS Research Associate
Brandi Backus is a researcher with several years of community engagement experience on projects ranging from land use planning to interpretive planning to historical research and program evaluation. She has worked with local communities (e.g. City of Decatur, TX, City of Melrose, MA), national government agencies (e.g. National Park Service), and museums and nonprofit organizations (e.g. Virginia Beach History Museums, National Women’s Law Center). At ACR, Brandi supports qualitative data collection and quantitative data analysis.
Brandi graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with her B.S. in Landscape Architecture and a certificate in archaeology. She also received her M.A. in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University. In her free time, Brandi enjoys traveling and exploring public spaces where she can learn more about the interactions between people, their environment, history, and culture.
MEGAN LOPES, MPH Nutritionist & Senior Researcher
Megan Lopes is a public health professional and nutritionist with 8 years of experience providing training, technical assistance, and resource development for USDA’s Child Nutrition Programs. She was Maryland’s Team Nutrition Training Grants Director where she oversaw the development, implementation, and evaluation of grants focused on culinary training, school wellness policies, nutrition education, and menu planning. During her time with the Maryland State Department of Education, Megan helped create training resources and nutrition education materials that included: Wellness Champions for Change School Level Wellness Policy Training, CACFP Meal Pattern and Standardized Recipe Videos, Family Engagement Wellness Toolkit, CACFP Shopper’s Guide, and Culinary Trainings aligning with the NSLP meal pattern. She has co-presented with USDA FNS team at national conferences including the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior and National School Nurses Association.
Most recently, Megan worked at the Virginia Department of Health with the Chronic Disease Management and Prevention team as the Healthy Communities Coordinator. This involved developing multi-sectoral partnerships to improve and increase food access, nutrition education, and physical activity while addressing inequities across Virginia. Some of the programs and policies Megan supported included: Virginia’s Breastfeeding Friendly Early Care and Workplace Recognition Programs, Coordinated School Physical Activity Programming, and Virginia’s Walkability Action Institute.
Megan thoroughly enjoys working with multi-sectoral teams to measure the outcomes and impact of policies, programs, and services. Furthermore, she loves traveling with her husband and daughter to new places and trying new foods!
GERAD O'SHEA, M.A. Co-Founder &
Gerad O’Shea brings 14+ years of experience designing and managing rigorous research to develop and evaluate communications, curriculum, interventions, and educational products. Gerad has designed, directed, and executed research to support federal contracts for diverse agencies (e.g. FNS, CDC, FDA, FDIC), as well as evaluations for state agencies (Maryland State Dept. of Education), local communities (e.g. NYC Office of Community Schools), and private clients (e.g. MIT, Nickelodeon).
Gerad actively contributes to all research projects, applying his 3 years of classroom experience and extensive background as a focus group moderator, qualitative interviewer, and data analyst.
Gerad was formerly the Statistics Coordinator and Research Director at the Michael Cohen Group, a Senior Data Analyst at the Child & Family Policy Center at NYU, and Assistant Band Director at the Boston Arts Academy. He received a BM in Music Education from Berklee College of Music and an M.A. in Applied Psychology from New York University. Gerad still calls himself a musician, and remains curious about exploring the link between formal music education and systems thinking, the learning potential of role playing games, and youth civic engagement.
JULIA FRIEDMAN RUBIN Senior Analyst
Julia Friedman Rubin has an extensive background in the education policy and research space with a particular focus on K-12 curriculum development and evaluation, culturally responsive teaching, professional learning for educators, and edtech development.
Prior to joining ACR, Julia worked at Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) as the senior content expert, where she was responsible for building the systems and structures for curriculum evaluation and for integrating K-12 policy analysis into the development of interdepartmental strategy and company vision. She also built and led frequent internal trainings on curriculum quality, education history and philosophy, and culturally responsive teaching.
At the start of her career in education, Julia spent 6 years in the classroom in New York City, teaching in both private and public schools in grades 5-8 in ELA, Math, and Social Studies. She holds an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University in the Teaching of Social Studies, and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and Urban Education Policy.
When she’s not reading and writing about the education landscape, Julia can be found hiking, gardening, or otherwise looking for an excuse to spend her day outdoors.
CAMERON WIMPY, PHD Statistical Consultant
Dr. Cameron Wimpy is a political scientist focusing on political and social science research methods, political economy, and public policy. In his applied work, Dr. Wimpy has focused on making statistical results more accessible to general audiences through effective visualization and communication. Dr. Wimpy has led the design and research for several contracts across government agencies including the DoD and FDA. His published work has appeared in the Journal of Politics, Political Science Research and Methods, Social Science Quarterly, and other peer-reviewed and edited volumes. Dr. Wimpy regular teaches courses and workshops on applied statistical techniques for social science research.
Content Development Partner
ACR brings the highest level of strategic thought, confidence, and professionalism to all projects. ACR has often been required to meet tight deadlines and manage multi-level client approval processes. They always deliver on time and without cutting corners, while managing expectations along the way.
Client, City Agency
ACR takes the time to understand what I’m looking to learn from each evaluation, and they design and revise their methods to answer my specific questions. As a result, their research captures meaningful data and evidence of impact, and their analysis and recommendations directly relate to my programs. Their work has directly influenced programmatic decisions and policy.
Client, Higher Ed
ACR’s knowledge, insight and understanding of our goals helped to foster a very collaborative working relationship. ACR’s team members became an invaluable part of my project team.