Bringing Law and Science Together to Promote Public Health

Meet Heidi Grunwald, Co-Founder at Legal Science LLC, an organization that provides innovative solutions using legal research expertise with machine intelligence to empower users with a clearer understanding of the law.

Apart from being the co-founder at Legal Science LLC, Heidi Grunwald is also the Director of the Institute For Survey Research at the Temple University. She is a mathematics major, who did her master’s from Simon Fraser University in Statistics. She holds a Ph.D. degree in Higher Education Administration from the University of Michigan. Here, she focused on research evaluation and assessment, which was in line with her statistics degree in quantitative methodology. 

Growing up, Heidi played football and even went to Europe after graduation to play it professionally. Initially, she was into aerospace engineering but soon found her calling in mathematics and statistics instead. She has also worked as a statistician for Nielsen TV. But realized that her interest lied in the academic culture and the nonprofit space. After her Ph.D., she joined the Temple University in Philadelphia. She has worked in different research departments of the varsity on several topics and research projects. Currently, as the director, she oversees all staff, research development, client relations, and academic integration efforts.

About 10 years ago, a colleague of hers asked her to run the Centre of Excellence in Temple University Law school together. This is how she entered the foray of public health and public health law. It was a mix of both science and law. Together they worked in the area to create a new field of study called the legal epidemiology. This involved systematic and scientific tracking of laws for the purposes of disease prevention. They spun out an intellectual property software from the university to start their company called the Legal Science LLC.

Talking more about the software, Grunwald says, “We last year gave that intellectual property back to the university to continue to try to commercialize it and develop it. The software that takes the text of the law and is human-assisted software that allows lawyers to create empirical legal data that represents a measurement of a body of law so that we can use that data to look at the effects of laws on health. Law, broadly defined as law administrative statutes regulations, case law, and health as in the social determinants of health, including things like downstream or upstream. So, not only education and housing, employment but also things like effects of clean indoor air laws on asthma, other health-related outcomes”. 

Heidi notes that there is a sexist world out there trying to restrict women and bring them down. Coming from an athletic, start-up, and academic space, she knows how rampant sexism is, even in today’s world. There is a need to support the women who are speaking out now and offer the right guidance to them. She also believes in the notion that “You are not going to win the fight (against sexism) in a day, month, or a year. This is going to go on forever”.

As per Heidi, Ph.D. is about perseverance. It takes a lot of soul searching and we need to surround ourselves with people who support us at all times. She also means in life, or even while starting a venture. She emphasizes on the importance of seeking mentors who can guide you on what you don’t know. Leaving a message in this regard, she says, “My advice is always to get yourself a team, whether it’s your family and friends or professional colleagues. Being a solopreneur in life is not a good way to go. I think entrepreneurs do better when they’re surrounded by people who compliment their personality types and skill sets. This results in more perspectives on what you might be going through in that particular moment or day or week”.