Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

February 16, 2015 | Tom Ballard

PART 2: Heidel’s Research Engineer automates research process

Research Engineer(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second 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.

The webpage for Scale, LLC describes Research Engineer, its inaugural product, as “an online decision engine that expedites the precision and accuracy of applied empirical methodologies and statistics.”

It is, in fact, a tool developed by Eric Heidel, a professional biostatistician and self-taught programmer, to completely automate the process of conducting research.

“I have a series of online decision engines that get you to the correct statistical test you need for your project,” he explains. “I ask all of the pertinent questions to get you to the correct answer, based on what research you want to conduct.”

By day, Heidel is an Assistant Professor of Biostatistics in the University of Tennessee’s (UT) Graduate School of Medicine. During his other hours, the Morgan County native who now resides in North Knoxville is an inventor, programmer, unofficial patent agent, and lifelong learner.

Statistics is a field that he readily embraces, but Heidel knows it can be intimidating for others.

“People have an automatic recoil to statistics,” he explains, adding that “statistics is the lexicon researchers use to communicate their findings.”

Recognizing how challenging the field can be, Heidel decided to do something to help others.

“With Research Engineer, I took the nebulous and intimidating aspects of statistics and built a site in a very user friendly way,” he says of the totally self-financed project.

His target customers are diverse, ranging from students in introductory college-level statistics classes to researchers in higher education, epidemiologists, those doing diagnostic testing, and even those conducting randomized clinical trials.

“I have engines for evidenced-based medicine,” Heidel says. The tool allows the researcher to define the question, acquire evidence, appraise the evidence, apply the results, and assess the appropriate intervention.

“It’s really cool,” he says of the “simple point and click” program. The output is provided in IBM’s SPSS Statistics format.

Anyone can use the tool for free. Heidel generates revenue from Google AdSense.

Now that he is a programmer, Heidel plans to develop other webpages.

“I have a great life and a great career ahead of me,” he says proudly. For a lifelong learner, what more could you want?