American scientist vanishes on Greek island of Crete

PHOTO: Suzanne Eaton is pictured in this undated photo.PlayBiotechnology Center of the TU Dresden
WATCH News headlines today: Oct. 14, 2019

An American scientist has disappeared on the Greek island of Crete.

U.S. citizen Suzanne Eaton, a 59-year-old research group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, was last seen on the afternoon of July 2 near the port city of Chania on Crete, where she was attending a conference. Greek authorities have launched a search for Eaton, according to the research institute.

"Our thoughts and wishes goes to the family and friends whose commitment, dedication and bravery underscore the extraordinary love and affection all of us feel towards Suzanne," the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics said in a statement Monday.

The Hellenic Police, the national police service of Greece, did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Eaton's running shoes are also missing, leading colleagues to suspect she may have gone for a run in the area.

"Understanding this is speculative, since Suzanne is a keen runner and her running shoes have not been found, a ‘more likely’ scenario is that she may have gone for a run," the institute said Friday in an earlier statement. "There are many observations that challenge such a theory including the heat of the day suggesting that a swim would have been more attractive. As well as being a leading scientist in her field, Suzanne is a strong athlete, runner and senior black belt in Tae Kwon Do. If anyone can find her way out of a difficult situation it is Suzanne."

PHOTO: Suzanne Eaton is pictured in this undated photo. Biotechnology Center of the TU Dresden
Suzanne Eaton is pictured in this undated photo.

The Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics released a statement on Monday from members of Eaton's family, who are appealing for the public's help in finding her.

“We are enormously grateful to the Greek police, fire service, coastguard and volunteers for the dedication they have brought to the search for Suzanne. We are determined to keep searching until we find her," Eaton's family said in the statement. "As in all cases when someone goes missing, the most important information can come from local residents and other holidaymakers or conference attendees who may have observed something on Tuesday afternoon that could assist the search. We are interested in anyone who has seen running shoes on or by the local beaches or road, and anyone who was at the beach outside the Orthodox Academy of Crete (OAC) on Tuesday afternoon.”

Eaton, a native of Oakland, California, is also a professor at the Biotechnology Center of the Technical University of Dresden in Germany. She is married with two children, according to her biography on the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics' website.

An official with the U.S. Department of State told ABC News they are aware of reports that an American citizen is missing in Greece and are working closely with local authorities as they carry out search efforts.

ABC News' Conor Finnegan contributed to this report.