Suzie Alarcón honored by Girl Scouts San Diego

Alarcón recognized for leadership in science, business, and community service

Ambassador Girl Scout Brielle A. stands to the left of LJI Next Generation Sequencing Core Director Suzie Alarcón in a lab setting. They are smiling at the camera.

LJI Next Generation Sequencing Core Director Suzie Alarcón (right) with her Girl Scout mentee, Brielle. (Image credit: Girl Scouts San Diego, Arielle Bader)


Suzie Alarcón, Director of the Next Generation Sequencing Core at La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI), has been named a 2024 Cool Women honoree by Girl Scouts San Diego. This award, given to five San Diego women each year, recognizes Alarcón’s leadership in the field of genetic sequencing and immune system research. The award also celebrates Alarcón’s dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs at LJI—as well as Alarcón’s role as a Girl Scout Troop Leader.

“I feel truly honored because the Girl Scouts have been an important part of my life at every stage,” says Alarcón.

Alarcón has made a big impact in the research world. Her highly skilled LJI team uses advanced sequencing equipment to uncover the roles of different immune cells in infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, allergies, and more. Alarcón is also co-founder of AUGenomics, which provides next-generation sequencing services through an independent laboratory in San Diego.

Alarcón strives to help others

Alarcón’s leadership and scientific skills proved critical in 2020. As COVID-19 spread and lockdown went into effect, Alarcón raced to develop a rapid, saliva-based screening method for detecting SARS-CoV-2 virus. This screening method proved accurate, fast, and inexpensive. Her team then worked around the clock for months to screen LJI employees for the virus. Their work made it possible for vital research projects to continue at the Institute.

In 2021, Alarcón’s team won a $500,000 XPRIZE for their SARS-CoV-2 screening efforts. They then turned around and used those winnings to buy supplies for scientists overseas in Nepal to carry out the SARS-CoV-2 screening method. This donation, along with their donation of nose-swab COVID-19 rapid test kits, improved laboratory safety for researchers at Kathmandu University, which is in a region where testing supplies have been scarce.

Outside the lab, Alarcón is a passionate member of LJI’s committee for inclusion, diversity, equity & advocacy (known as LJIdea). Alarcón’s LJIdea volunteer efforts include organizing workshops for LJIdea-supported interns and co-organizing hands-on science activities at the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering.

Serving as a role model

As a Cool Women honoree, Alarcón has been paired with a high school-age student in the Girl Scout “Emerging Leaders” program. Alarcón says she’s thrilled to be mentoring a young woman interested in pursuing a future career in the sciences. 

Alarcón recently welcomed her mentee, Brielle, to the Institute for a tour of several laboratories and research cores. “She’s the kind of kid you know is going to do great, and I hope I can be a resource for her,” says Alarcón. 

Three women smile and face the camera

(Left to right) Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D., Sue Major, and Suzie Alarcón at an LJI event

Alarcón will officially accept the “Cool Woman” award at a ceremony on March 21. She plans to bring her daughter to the ceremony. “I want her to see all the Emerging Leaders who are just a few years ahead of her,” says Alarcón. “I want her to see there are people out there trying really hard to make the world better.”

Alarcón is in good company as a Cool Women honoree and leader at LJI. Previous Cool Women include LJI Professor, President, & CEO Erica Ollmann Saphire (honored in 2016) and Sue Major (honored in 2022), co-benefactor of LJI’s John and Susan Major Center for Clinical Investigation.

Learn more:

La Jolla scientist is named one of San Diego’s ‘Cool Women’

LJI team wins $500,000 XPRIZE for COVID-19 screening protocol