Eric Garber

March 31, 1958 ~ March 24, 2020 (age 61)


Eric A.E. Garber, 61, born in New York, NY, passed away on March 24, 2020, following multiple chronic and acute illnesses that never diminished his spirit. 

Eric was born on March 31, 1958.  He went to Stuyvesant HS and earned his B.S. at City College of New York in 1978, where he studied chemistry under Dr. Meyer M. Fishman, received the Merck Index Award and the Cohen Award, and graduated magna cum laude.  He went on to earn his Ph.D. at Brandeis University, Graduate Department of Biochemistry, 1983, where he studied under Dr. Thomas C. Hollocher.  Eric did his post-doctoral research with Dr. Emanuel Margoliash at Northwestern University until 1992, where he studied parameters governing the interaction between cytochrome c and cytochrome c oxidase in a wide variety of organisms.  During this time, he contributed to a variety of graduate and research programs in the Chicago area.  Following his post-doctoral training, Eric established an undergraduate program in biochemistry at West Virginia State University, where he taught in the Department of Chemistry until 1999.  During this time, he conducted research as an Associate of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for Military Medical Research through a collaboration with the Biological Defense Research Directorate of the United States Navy, in which biosensor technology was employed to identify, isolate, and characterize toxins and infectious agents as part of an effort to develop immunological diagnostic bioassay devices.  During this time, Eric met the love of his life, Lynn Rust, at a biochemistry conference, and she joined him in West Virginia in 1995.  Lynn moved to North Dakota in 1996, and Eric joined her in 1999 as a Research Biologist at the Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center, USDA-ARS, where he supervised and conducted research on the detection and identification of hormonally active agents and toxins in fresh water, including studies of frog developmental malformations using both field and laboratory investigations.  In 2002, Eric worked at ThreeFold Sensors, Ann Arbor, MI, where he conducted research on the application of immunochemistry to the development of an evanescent field-based biosensor applicable for the detection of bacteria (infectious agents). 

Dr. Garber joined the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in 2002. Eric was an extraordinary analytical scientist for the FDA. He threw himself into his work like no other, often working late into the night to complete a project. His research focused primarily on the development of methods to detect food allergens and protein toxins, and he oversaw the use of methods by FDA laboratories to analyze samples for the presence of undeclared food allergens. As part of the nation’s food defense program, and in collaboration with Tetracore, he developed a method to detect ricin and abrin toxins in foods, and his methods have been adopted by the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN).  Recently, he completed the development and led the collaborative study of a method for the simultaneous multiplex detection of 14 food allergens and gluten. His research led to numerous peer-reviewed publications and research presentations, and the methods he developed are still routinely used by the FDA to safeguard consumers.

Eric strongly believed in the mission of the FDA and always argued for the best possible science to protect public health. Eric strongly felt that he served the American consumer who paid his salary, and he would argue vociferously for them.

Eric had a keen sense of social and professional justice. Eric never judged a person’s character by their appearance or ethnicity, but rather would let people reveal their character through their words and actions. In this way, he developed a diverse network of close and trusted friends that he would engage in wide-ranging and long-winded discussions. He also knew the importance of family and cultivated bonds with his parents, sisters, and sisters’ families, and restored once-lost bonds with his uncle’s family.

Eric’s love of nature was evident to even the most casual of friends. He loved beauty of all kinds, from a spilled truckload of frozen orange juice to the detail of insect wings. His generosity was evidenced by his sharing of his photography; his photographs became his greeting cards to those he loved, and they became collectors’ items to many.

Eric loved adventure even while his body betrayed him. When a physical activity was difficult, he adjusted his strategy, even getting on “all fours” to scamper up rock hills in Patagonia. On a multiday group canoe trip, he proved his value with a shaker of spice and by providing potable water for all.  His honeymoon with Lynn was in Guatemala where he hiked up into the rainforest, stopping to catch his breath, but making it to camp nevertheless, where he was rewarded with spectacular wildlife encounters.

While Lynn was the center and heart of Eric’s life, he also loved his dogs and his farm in North Dakota, where he could be “outstanding in his field.”  Eric had a genuine concern for his farmer-neighbors and did what he could to assist their livelihood.

Eric is survived by his wife, Lynn Rust; his sisters, Anne Myers (Larry) and Debra Englander, and his nieces and nephews; his aunt, Joyce Garber, cousins and cousins’ families; and wide circle of friends.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to The Rourke Museum, Moorhead, MN: or The Fargo Theatre, Fargo, ND:

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