Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

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February 15, 2015 | Tom Ballard

PART 1: Eric Heidel is a lifelong learner with an entrepreneurial side

Research Engineer(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first article in a two-part series focused on Eric Heidel, a local entrepreneur.)

By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

Eric Heidel describes himself as a lifelong learner. Once we heard his story, we certainly agreed with his self-assessment.

By day, he’s an Assistant Professor of Biostatistics in the University of Tennessee’s (UT) Graduate School of Medicine. At night and on the weekends, Heidel is an inventor, programmer, unofficial patent agent, and owner of a company named Scale, LLC.

“I help people . . . that’s what I do for a living,” the Oak Ridge native and first generation college graduate says in his direct but unassuming manner. The characterization clearly applies to all of his activities.

Heidel’s latest undertaking – Research Engineer – is a software program that helps researchers determine the best statistical approach to use for their projects.

“It’s a simple point and click application,” he says, adding, “I’m letting people use the site for free.”

The fact that it is free underscores a larger calling that Heidel feels, whether in his UT work or other pursuits.

“I’m very lucky and blessed,” he says, noting that he is also the first person in his family to start a business. “I will pursue any and every opportunity to move forward.”

Heidel started his undergraduate work with a focus on psychotherapy. His three degrees reflect his diverse interests. Heidel holds a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Business Administration, an M.S. in Mental Health Counseling, and a Ph.D. in Counselor Education with an Intercollegiate Graduate Minor in Statistics and a Graduate Certification in Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement.

During his graduate years, Heidel was a Graduate Assistant in the Graduate School of Medicine for four years where he worked as a statistical and research design consultant. After earning his doctorate, he joined the Graduate school where he teaches and also helps residents, faculty and students do statistical work.

The lifelong learner has been inventing for the past 13 years and had his first issued patent in 2003 for a clean energy generating technology that attached turbines to water mains, water towers, sewer lines, and aqueducts.

Heidel subsequently sold a 50 percent stake in the patent, but continued his inventing, the second time with a software product for mental health professionals. Overall, he has written and defended five patent applications, something he learned on his own.

NEXT: How Research Engineer helps researchers.

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