In Memoriam: Eric Buel, PhD

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Source: Susan M. Ballou, MS, 2018-2019 President

With great sadness and profound feelings of loss I am informing the AAFS membership that one of our colleagues, Eric Buel, who passed away on April 5, 2018, following a long battle with lymphoma.

Eric, a Fellow of the Criminalistics Section, received the section’s Paul L. Kirk award in 2014. In his acceptance of this award he said: “The field of forensics has much to offer a scientist. As scientists we aspire to learn and make improvements to the work we do for the communities we serve. We recognize the possibilities and limits of our field and communicate this understanding to our counterparts in the criminal justice community and the public. Not many science careers demand and allow us these opportunities. We play an integral role in the criminal justice system; we understand that our efforts impact the community and our work has true meaning to the citizens we serve. Forensics is a challenging field but one that allows us to implement changes to improve the work we do for the citizens of our communities. This challenge and sense of community have kept me in the field well past my original expectation of five years.” Eric remained in the field for more than 30 years and made great contributions to the field he loved. As stated by one of his colleagues, “One of his proudest achievements was the creation of the Green Mountain DNA Conference after recognizing the difficulty in establishing good, direct communication between scientists, whether working in the same subject area or in interdisciplinary research.” This conference is thoroughly enjoyed by all who attend because it allows exactly what Eric strove for: open and unhindered communication between scientists. The Green Mountain DNA Conference was built on the shoulders of a giant.

Eric had the gift of connecting with people, understanding their concerns, issues, and thoughts, and then assisted them in their progression to a positive outcome in resolving their differences. That is a rare talent. No one was gentler and more understanding than Eric. He continued in this fashion even as he went through the extensive and debilitating cancer treatments. Each one of us benefited from knowing and working with Eric; however, I know that as much as Eric loved and gave to our profession, his greatest love and accomplishment was his family. He spoke often of his family and the grounding they provided for his involvement in the field and tasks undertaken at the office.

Unbeknownst to Eric, his award acceptance speech captured so much. As he so eloquently stated, “Nothing is done in a vacuum. My career has been shaped, molded, and assisted by my family and the friends and colleagues I have had the wonderful opportunity to know and work with. The Academy meetings provide a unique opportunity to discuss science and to meet colleagues, friends, and begin relationships with new ones. I have always enjoyed the meetings and hope you all will enjoy the rest of the meeting. Thank you for being here and honoring me with the Paul L. Kirk award.”

Eric was an amazing individual and an amazing friend, and his spirit will continue in all that we undertake because he is an inspiration to us all, a true giant in forensic science.