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who we are

CEO and Founder

Molly B. Zielezinski, PhD. has spent more than a decade working at the intersection of technology and learning in K-12. She began her career as an elementary math teacher and in time advanced to roles supporting colleagues through the design and delivery of professional development. Later, Molly went on to earn a PhD from Stanford University in Learning Sciences & Technology Design where her research focused on technology use to support learning by underserved students. While at Stanford, she honed expertise in the learning sciences, working on cutting-edge projects to create and evaluate advancements in technology design, design thinking, curriculum development, and teacher education. 

Today, as founder and CEO of MBZ Labs, Molly works in partnership with educational technology companies and research organizations, building their capacity for real-time relevant efficacy and evaluation. At MBZ Labs, she also supports strategic initiatives focused on bridging existing gaps between technology, research and practice.

Director of Research

Paul Franz, M.A. is a life-long scholar, avid researcher, and former middle school teacher.  He has written and presented research on student health and well-being, college admissions and higher education policy, curriculum and technology, and Massive Open Online Courses.  His work has appeared in the Review of Higher Education, ASCD’s EL Magazine, and on EdSurge. He has also appeared as a guest on KQED Forum.

Paul holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College, Santa Fe, and an M.A. in Learning, Design, and Technology from Stanford University. As the Director of Research for MBZ Labs, Franz uses these skills to provide actionable insights to educational technology companies interested in leveraging research for improvement.

Director of Knowledge

Amanda Thibodeau has been working in education and non-profit management for the last decade.  After working in multiple healthcare startups, Thibodeau moved to the Sierra Nevada foothills to learn about sustainable agriculture with the goal of teaching students where their food comes from.  There, she founded and developed a thriving educational farm serving thousands of students and educators throughout the region, later pioneering a farm-to-school program that serves over 96% of classrooms in her county while developing cutting edge curriculum and professional development to support this program.

With her B.A. in Communications and Culture and Philosophy from Clark University, Thibodeau is skilled at synthesizing information and identifying trends and big picture themes. As the Director of Knowledge at MBZ Labs, Thibodeau is excited to use her varied skills and leadership experience to help companies and educators thrive in a dynamic environment and face the challenges of education in today’s world.


Lyle Jacobs has spent the last four years teaching fourth grade students on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. A member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe, Lyle grew up on the Pine Ridge reservation and is passionate about Native American education and curriculum. He is currently at the Stanford Graduate School of Education in the Learning, Design, and Technology Program, where he is working on practices to combat stereotype threat and foster growth mindsets in Native American students.


Kate Whitney is currently a master’s student in the Learning, Design, and Technology program at Stanford University, where she’s excited to expand her knowledge of research methods, user experience, and the learning sciences. While working toward her B.S. in Biology from UCLA, Kate worked as a research assistant studying human behavior from an evolutionary perspective. There, she became passionate about the research process and its potential to inform solutions to society’s challenges. During her time as an undergraduate, she also had the opportunity to develop and teach weekly biology lessons to elementary school students, sparking her interest in education. 

Following college, Kate worked as a project manager at a web development agency, where she realized the power of user experience in technology design. At MBZ Labs, she is excited to apply her experience in research and education to help educational technology companies create products that are both usable and effective.