La Jolla scientist is named one of San Diego’s ‘Cool Women’:  Suzie Alarcón of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology gets Girl Scouts honor

Suzie Alarcón is Director of the Next Generation Sequencing Core at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology.  And if that seems pretty cool, she is also been named one of the “Cool Women” of 2024 by Girl Scouts of San Diego.

Each year, the Girl Scouts honor women whose personal and professional lives make them role models for girls, according to the organization.  Other Cool Women honorees are Kim Folsom, Founder and Chief Executive of Founders First Capital Partners; Martha Gilmer, Chief Executive of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra; Pamela Gray Payton, Chief Impact and Partnerships Officer for the San Diego Foundation; and Sherry Thompson-Taylor, a Superior Court judge in San Diego.  The Cool Women and 50 emerging leaders in the Girl Scouts were honored on 21 MAR 2024 at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines hotel.

“I had lunch with the other women and felt like a total impostor,” Alarcón, a Girl Scout herself in her youth, said with a laugh.  “My jaw was on the table when they were telling me what they do and all they’ve accomplished.  I was so humbled and wowed and inspired and felt so good about getting recognized among them.”  At the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, Alarcón led a team that went on to win the grand prize in the XPrize competition for the development of a fast, accurate and affordable COVID-19 detection test.  She also is co-founder of UGenomics, a Female-Owned biotech company focused on expanding access to high-quality genomic sequencing, a process of determining the entire, or nearly the entire, DNA sequence of an organism’s genome at a single time.

As part of the Cool Women program, emerging leaders in the Girl Scouts are matched with an honoree in a field of interest for them to shadow in the workplace.  Alarcón said the prospect of working with future scientists who are now in the Girl Scouts is as exciting as the recognition itself.  “I love talking to high schoolers and college students; they are so smart and ambitious and have the best questions,” Alarcón said.  “I wish I had one drop of the ambition they have when I was their age.”

Providing such mentorship gives her “hope for the future,” she said.  “It can be easy to get discouraged, but being surrounded by people that want to do something and get out and do it and have the discipline is exciting.”  Along with introducing the girls to scientific fields, Alarcón said she hopes to show that a female leader can be impactful.

She said Erica Ollmann Saphire, Chief Executive of LJI, “has always been good about leading by example and having the conversations of the challenges of women working in [science fields].  It’s great to see someone succeed and learn how they did it.  Because I have a louder, more aggressive personality, I want them to see that is OK,” Alarcón said.  “Women are allowed to be insistent and loud, be crazy and be fully complex people and still have a right to exist and be a leader.  I don’t know if I can be an inspiration to them, but I can show them they can be complicated people and get to something that suits you in your career.”  She said she encourages girls to “work and stay ambitious, but don’t get burned out. … Nurture those friendships with other women.  That support system is so important to me, and I hope all these young emerging leaders … understand that.”

Alarcón said men who are “true allies” to women in science are important.  “They can’t just say they want women [in science], they have to give us the credit and the support and resources.”

To learn more about the Cool Women and the Girl Scouts of San Diego, visit

REFERENCE:  La Jolla Light (California); 10 MAR 2024; Ashley Mackin-Solomon