Suzanne Eaton headshot photoThe Legacy of Dr. Suzanne Eaton, Ph.D. (1959-2019)


In September 2019, the Suzanne Eaton, Ph.D. Memorial Prize was established at UCLA. This prize will honor the life and work of Dr. Suzanne Eaton, whose life came to a tragic end in July 2019, while she was at a conference in Crete.

Dr. Eaton, a renowned, award-winning scientist, received her Ph.D. in Microbiology from UCLA in 1987. Her thesis, entitled Molecular analysis of an immunoglobulin heavy chain promoter, was completed under the supervision of Dr. Kathryn Calame. For this work she was awarded the Sydney C. Rittenberg Award for Distinguished Academic Achievement in Microbiology by the Association of Academic Women in 1988. Eaton then went on to become a senior researcher and founder at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, and a Professor at the Biotechnology Center of the Technical University of Dresden in Germany. The focus of her research was the question “How do cells form tissues?”. Thanks to her insatiable curiosity and creativity, she discovered groundbreaking approaches to understanding how cells communicate with each other to form tissue. Through the discovery of signaling molecules, the morphogens, and their physical properties and interactions, Eaton’s team was able to explain how signals are spread over long distances in tissues. Most recently before her passing, Eaton’s research had focused on the interaction of signaling and metabolic pathways.

Throughout her career, Dr. Eaton was especially mindful of the hurdles faced by young scientists raising children in addition to pursuing their research. Upon moving herself and her family to Germany, she benefited from their daycare system and was saddened to see colleagues in the U.S. struggling to balance their careers with childcare. To honor this passion, Eaton’s colleagues and friends established this award to help realize a solution for those facing this predicament at her alma mater.

Award Description

The Suzanne Eaton, Ph.D. Memorial Prize is intended to recognize a Ph.D. student or postdoctoral fellow at UCLA in one of the following areas under the Graduate Programs in Bioscience: microbiology, immunology, biological chemistry or molecular biology. The recipient should be a scientist who displays the traits characterized by Dr. Eaton: excellence in their work, passion for their discipline, and a caring personality for their colleagues. It is hoped that the award will to help defray costs of child care which may burden young scientists who are parents.

2020-2021 Awardees

Helen Vuong

Headshot of Helen Vuong

Helen Vuong earned her B.S. in Neuroscience from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She continued her graduate education at UCLA, earning her Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Physiology under the mentorship of Dr. Nicholas C. Brecha. During her graduate studies, Vuong investigated the anatomical and electrophysiological regulation of retinal microcircuits by neuropeptides, including somatostatin and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide. For postdoctoral training, she worked with Dr. Elaine Y. Hsiao at UCLA, studying the role of the maternal microbiome in fetal brain development, including modulation of neuronal connectivity, activity and function, and behavior. She is a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award fellow, where she conducts research while pursuing her passion in education and outreach. In addition, Vuong was recently awarded the NIH-National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Pathway to Independence Award that will facilitate her transition into an independent research position. 

Einav Tayeb-Fligelman

Headshot of Einav Tayeb-Fligelman

Einav Tayeb-Fligelman is a postdoctoral fellow at the Eisenberg laboratory at the UCLA-DOE institute, a wife, and a mother of three amazing children. She completed all her degrees at the Technion- Israel institute of technology. Her PhD work, focused on functional amyloid-like fibrils, resulted in many exciting findings, including discovering a novel amyloid-like architecture, which was published in Science journal. At the Eisenberg laboratory, she studies the interactions and cross-seeding propensities of the two main proteins involved in Alzheimer’s disease. Einav is also participating and coordinating a collaborative project in which they study amyloid formation by the Nucleoprotein of SARS-CoV-2, its role in viral replication, and the potential of our de novo designed amyloid-inhibitors as treatments for Covid-19. For her studies, she is integrating methods from biochemistry, cell biology, X-ray crystallography, electron microscopy, and more. Along with her research, she is also very passionate about teaching and about promoting inclusion and equity in science. With two former female members of the Eisenberg lab, they founded a group for women in science (WISE) which Einav has been managing for over a year now. This group was initiated for the Eisenberg female lab members but now had expanded to include women scientists from other labs and departments at UCLA. The aim is to empower our WISE members, introduce them to the various professional paths available in academia and industry, and provide a safe environment for sharing and seeking support. The proof that men and women, parents or not, could be equally capable and successful is found in Dr. Eaton’s life story, achievements, and commitment to her science and family.