Suzanne Eaton

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Suzanne Eaton
Born(1959-12-23)December 23, 1959
DiedJuly 2, 2019(2019-07-02) (aged 59)
Chania, Crete, Greece
Alma materBrown University (B.S.)
University of California, Los Angeles (Ph.D.)
Spouse(s)Anthony A. Hyman
AwardsWICB Junior Award (2006)
Scientific career
InstitutionsEuropean Molecular Biology Laboratory
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics
TU Dresden
ThesisMolecular analysis of an immunoglobulin heavy chain promoter (1988)
Doctoral advisorKathryn Calame
InfluencesThomas B. Kornberg
Kai Simons

Suzanne Eaton (December 23, 1959 – July 2, 2019) was an American scientist and professor of molecular biology at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany.

Early life and education[edit]

Eaton was born on December 23, 1959, in Oakland, California.[1] One of Eaton's self-confessed role models as a child was Spock, due to his rational approach to problem solving. She was also a talented pianist, having played since the age of eight.[2]

As an undergraduate, Eaton was torn between a career as a biologist, a comparative literature professor, or a mathematician. The deciding factor was a course that was taught from primary literature instead of a textbook, sparking an enthusiasm for biological research.[3]

Eaton completed a B.S. in biology at Brown University in 1981 before earning a Ph.D. in microbiology at University of California, Los Angeles in 1988.[1] Her thesis, entitled Molecular analysis of an immunoglobulin heavy chain promoter, was completed under the supervision of Kathryn Calame.[4] She was awarded the Sydney C. Rittenberg Award for Distinguished Academic Achievement in Microbiology by the Association of Academic Women in 1988 for her doctoral work.[1]

Career and research[edit]

Eaton began her research career working on immunoglobulin heavy chain genes at University of California, Los Angeles, in the laboratory of Kathryn Calame.[2] In 1988, Eaton switched fields to developmental biology, investigating how cells obtain their tissue identities in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, while in the group of Thomas B. Kornberg at University of California, San Francisco.[2][5] Eaton moved to Germany in 1993 to work at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg in the group of Kai Simons, where she combined her expertise in microbiology and developmental biology to investigate how the cytoskeleton helps cells attain their polarity in tissues, using the fruit fly as a model system.[3][5][6] In 2000, Eaton became one of the founding group leaders at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, where her group investigated how signalling molecules and mechanical properties of cells act together to shape tissues in the fruit fly.[2][6][7] In 2015, she became professor of developmental cell biology of invertebrates at the TU Dresden.[5]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • 1988: Association of Academic Women, Sydney C. Rittenberg Award for Distinguished Academic Achievement in Microbiology[1]

Personal life[edit]

Eaton was married to the British scientist, Anthony A. Hyman. The couple had two children.[9] She was an athlete and runner, and had a black belt in Taekwondo.[10]

After her death, her sister wrote: "She took great pleasure in preparing exquisite meals and had an exotic fashion sense. She loved perfume. She taught and practiced Tae Kwon Do as a second-degree black belt. She finished crossword puzzles way too quickly, played concertos, and read extensively. She fit Jane Austen’s strictest description of an 'accomplished woman' while maintaining a natural humility and 'insatiable curiosity'".[11]

Disappearance and death[edit]

Eaton disappeared on July 2, 2019. She was last seen playing the piano in the hotel lobby where she was attending a conference at the Orthodox Academy in Chania, Crete. It is believed that her disappearance occurred during a run.[12] Greek police found her body on July 8 inside a World War Two bunker.[13] A homicide investigation was opened after it was determined that she died by asphyxiation.[14] A 27 year-old suspect was apprehended who later admitted to hitting her with a car, then raping her and dumping her body in the bunker.[15][16]

Selected publications[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "MPI-CBG: Group Leader". Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d Sedwick, Caitlin (July 22, 2013). "Suzanne Eaton: The beautiful logic of development". The Journal of Cell Biology. 202 (2): 184–185. doi:10.1083/jcb.2022pi. ISSN 0021-9525. PMID 23878270.
  3. ^ a b "ASCB Profile: Suzanne Eaton" (PDF). ASCB Newsletter. March 2007. Retrieved July 18, 2019.
  4. ^ Eaton, Suzanne. Molecular analysis of an immunoglobulin heavy chain promoter. OCLC 18403951.
  5. ^ a b c Eaton group webpage at TU Dresden, accessed on July 9th 2019.
  6. ^ a b "In remembrance of Suzanne Eaton". Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  7. ^ "Research focus of the Eaton lab on". Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  8. ^ "Women in Cell Biology Awards". Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  9. ^ ASCB Profile: Tony Hyman. In: ASCB-Newsletter, November 2012, S. 41 (online).
  10. ^ McKenzie, Sheena (July 9, 2019). "American scientist who went missing on Greek island found dead". CNN. Retrieved July 10, 2019.
  11. ^ Labropoulou, Elinda; Damon, Arwa; Kottasová, Ivana (July 11, 2019). "Suzanne Eaton: Body of American scientist found inside a former Nazi bunker". CNN. Retrieved July 17, 2019.
  12. ^ Martinez, Gina (July 9, 2019). "American Biologist Found Dead in Greece Nearly a Week After Her Disappearance". Time. Retrieved July 10, 2019.
  13. ^ "Missing American scientist found dead in Crete". Reuters. July 9, 2019. Retrieved July 10, 2019.
  14. ^ CNN, Sheena McKenzie and Ray Sanchez. "Death of American scientist who went missing on Greek island investigated as homicide". CNN.
  15. ^ Papadopoulos, John; Griffith, Janelle (July 15, 2019). "Suspect admits to killing U.S. scientist Suzanne Eaton in Greece, police source says". NBC News. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  16. ^ Labropoulou, Elinda (July 19, 2019). "American scientist killed in Greece was raped, say police". CNN. Retrieved July 17, 2019.

External links[edit]