Marliece Barrios ’23 Pursues Joy and Fulfillment through Research and Service 

Author: Shannon Rooney


During her college search, Marliece Barrios ’23 was drawn to Notre Dame’s mission as a force for good.

As a high school student in Glendora, California, she was an avid volunteer. Among other service projects, she worked with low-income, primarily Hispanic families helping them to improve their English. She also worked with students in Kindergarten through fourth grade, helping them increase their competencies in math. She was passionate about this work. 

So when Barrios had the chance to visit Notre Dame as a senior in high school, she came looking for opportunities to make a difference. 

As a visiting admitted student, Barrios had the chance to stay in a residence hall on campus. She stayed in Lyons Hall and went with her student host to a Hall Council meeting where students were planning a trip to help out at a local homeless center the next morning, on a Saturday at 7:00 a.m. Barrios was impressed. 

“When they made the announcement, all the girls were talking about going and I was like, ‘wow, this is exactly the place I want to be,’” she says. “This wasn’t something that people were doing just to do it. They were volunteering because it meant something to them.” 

Later in the trip, Barrios attended a talk given by staff at the Center for Social Concerns. This sealed the deal. The opportunities through the center intrigued her and the “spirit of service” on campus made her feel like she was in the right place. 

Now a senior at Notre Dame, Barrios says she has been “very intentional about pursuing what brings me joy and fulfillment above anything else.” Working in service to justice is one of the things that brings her fulfillment and she has amassed a number of service experiences.

One of the most significant of these was offered through the Center for Social Concerns' Rev. Don McNeill, C.S.C. Leadership Fellows Program. Throughout the program, she interned at the Elkhart Center for Community Justice, where she worked with the victim-offender reconciliation restorative justice program. The program involved victims and offenders meeting in a mediation session and making a retribution plan. 

“That was such an impactful experience for me, just being a part of those conversations,” says Barrios. “Getting to work with these people was life-changing.” 

As part of her internship, Barrios authored a report on the effectiveness of the program, which allowed her to tap into her statistical background as a biological sciences major

Barrios goes up for "push-ups" after a touchdown at a Notre Dame home football game.

In addition to that major, Barrios is pursuing a concentration in infectious diseases and global health, along with a second major in philosophy. She is also part of the Biological Science Honors Program. 

Combining her interests in science, healthcare, and justice, Barrios has pursued research outside of the classroom. She has held research positions with the Rohr Lab of Ecology and Public Health, has conducted course-related research projects in three different Notre Dame science labs, and was a Summer Research Fellow at the Mayo Clinic’s Aging and Immune Restoration Lab. 

“One of the things I am most grateful for from my Notre Dame experience so far has been the opportunity to get involved in science and conduct high-level, independent research,” says Barrios. “Every step of the way, I've felt so encouraged and supported by the science faculty to explore my passions, and think that the science department's desire to get students involved in research very early in their college education is one of the most critical things that they do for forming competent and curious future scientists and leaders.”

In addition to her research, Barrios has other joyful pursuits. She’s a resident assistant in her hall, Walsh Hall. She serves as a lead mentor in the UPLIFT program in the Department of Biological Sciences, overseeing mentorship of 10 younger students throughout their studies. She also volunteers with the ND First Aid Services team and is a volunteer lobbyist with the NETWORK Lobby Group. She has also been involved with Multicultural Student Programs and Services (MSPS) on campus. And that’s just a snapshot of her resume of activities. 

Barrios will continue to pursue her passions after graduating from Notre Dame in May. She plans to go onto graduate school and pursue a combination M.D. and Ph.D. degree specializing in immunology and infectious diseases. 

“Ultimately, I aspire to work in an academic medical center in the future as an infectious disease specialist,” she explains. She wants to continue researching too, in ways that help advance diagnostics and treatment of infectious diseases. 

In the meantime, Barrios is taking advantage of every moment left during her senior year. She is enjoying home football games, residence hall activities, and contributing to a community that she loves. 

“I think it’s pretty universal that when you ask someone, ‘What is it about Notre Dame?,’ [the answer is] always ‘the people,’” says Barrios. She’s proud to be part of a community that supports and cares for its members the way Notre Dame students do. “And I think that’s what’s really beautiful and special about Notre Dame."


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