The genius of LJI

La Jolla Institute’s “Top Workplaces” ranking proves the power of collaboration in advancing medical research

LJI Research Assistant Professor Daniela Weiskopf, Ph.D., and Professor Alessandro Sette, Dr.Biol.Sci., in the lab.

LJI Research Assistant Professor Daniela Weiskopf, Ph.D., and Professor Alessandro Sette, Dr.Biol.Sci., in the lab.


Employees at La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) have again voted the Institute one of the top workplaces in San Diego County, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

What’s so great about LJI? Across the board, our scientists and staff say they appreciate the people they work with. LJI is a place of brilliant minds and exceptional team players.

“I’ve worked at a lot of different places, and it really is the people that sets LJI apart from other places,” says Aaron Ling, Senior Director, Financial Planning & Analysis Department at LJI. “It’s pretty amazing how many different ethnicities and cultures are just inside our building. You can learn so much from everyone.”

“The culture of LJI is utterly friendly and welcoming,” says Nicolas Thiault, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at LJI. “LJI employees are coming from all over the world bringing with them their customs and traditions. Not only does this sets LJI apart from any other workplaces, but it particularly contributes to the convivial culture of LJI.”

“It’s very interactive,” adds LJI Research Assistant Professor Daniela Weiskopf, Ph.D. “If you have a question, you can go up and ask anyone—at any level.”

“I came to LJI for the culture,” says LJI President and CEO Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D. “People at LJI stand two inches taller and are invested in each other’s successes and in advancing research together.”

LJI has been named a “Top Workplace” in San Diego County four years in a row. Our small-but-mighty Institute is home to 488 staff members and scientists who lead pioneering studies into the very fundamentals of the immune system and spearhead the development of better vaccines, drug therapies and more. The scientists here include 208 early career postdoctoral researchers and trainees.

“LJI is different from other places because this is a collaborative environment with mentoring and internal seminars to share ideas. Our small size means you can feel like you have one-on-one time with the principal investigators,” says LJI Instructor Alba Grifoni, Ph.D.

Grifoni says LJI’s efforts to fight COVID-19 demonstrate the value of collaboration at the Institute. In 2020, LJI faculty came together to form the LJI Coronavirus Task Force and swiftly published pivotal studies on how the immune system responds to SARS-CoV-2. This work helped inform early vaccine efforts and has been lauded by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci, M.D., for shedding light on how to fight the virus.

It truly was a team effort. As researchers labored around the clock on these studies, staff in the LJI administrative offices helped secure funding for this work, ensured workplace safety, communicated the scientific findings and much more. 

“We were able to be so productive and collaborative,” says Grifoni. “That’s a really special thing about LJI.”

LJI is also known for its strong scientific infrastructure. Highly skilled technical staff in LJI’s Research Services provide bioinformatics expertise, clinical services, animal model development, imaging tools, next-generation sequencing, flow cytometry equipment and much more for a vast number of studies. In fact, throughout the pandemic, the staff of the LJI Next Generation Sequencing Core kept the Institute running safely by developing a rapid, saliva-based COVID-19 screening—and won an XPRIZE for their efforts.

“Support staff has everything to do with the success of the Institute,” says Weiskopf. “We have so many great cores, and having access to this expertise in one spot is a huge advantage.”

Ling says this spirit of teamwork even makes its way to the Institute’s Financial Planning & Analysis Department. “We like to have fun, whether it’s happy hours, softball or even during impromptu hallway conversations” he says.

A group photo of La Jolla Institute postdoctoral fellows

Our Postdoc Appreciation Week was a chance to celebrate the work of LJI’s early career researchers.


View a virtual tour of the Institute

Explore careers at LJI