Class of 2023 Spotlight: Cesia Diaz

Two-sport Athlete, Behavioral Neuroscience Major Reflects on Her NDMU Experience
Cesia Diaz at her soccer senior day

By: Erik Pedersen, Senior Communications Manager

Class of 2023 Spotlights

BALTIMORE – Prior to beginning her college search, Cesia Diaz ’23 already knew that she wanted to study neuroscience. She looked across the country for schools that provided that opportunity, but the opportunity to play Division III soccer and stay close to home ultimately led the Baltimore native to choose Notre Dame.

Diaz helped lead the soccer program to a pair of Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC) tournament appearances during her time at NDMU. She would later join the lacrosse team for her final two years, starting every game for the Gators during a run to the CSAC championship game in 2022.

Diaz was also a member of Notre Dame’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Despite her many athletic responsibilities, she continued to excel in the classroom, earning multiple CSAC All-Academic Team honors while majoring in behavioral neuroscience.

Learn more about Diaz’s NDMU experience and her future career plans:

What inspired you to major in behavioral neuroscience?

I’ve always wanted to work in the medical field. My dad was diagnosed with meningitis when I was younger. They found it very late, at stage four, so I was around a lot of neurosurgeons and neurologists. I was fascinated by their work, and I had always been interested in the brain. When I started helping my dad with his therapy, I thought to myself, ‘You know what, I enjoy this. I would really like to be part of something that helps other people like him.’

Have there been any classes or internships that have been particularly impactful during your time at NDMU?

I really benefited from the small class sizes at NDMU. Several classes, like neurobiology, cognition, and intro to neuroscience, helped confirm that I had chosen the right major. Introductory psychology helped me realize that I was more interested in the brain and neuroscience than becoming a psychologist.

I’m currently at Johns Hopkins for my practicum, and that has solidified the fact that I really enjoy helping people with neurodegenerative disorders, like dementia, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Huntingdon’s, etc. – I love the people, and I love researching to learn more about those conditions.

What was your experience like as a two-sport athlete?

I absolutely loved it. I didn’t know anyone when I arrived, and then on my first day of preseason for soccer I had all these immediate friends and different majors around me. I felt so loved by the athletic community – my teammates always motivated me to do great things, and my coaches were always making sure that I was on top of my grades. Joining the lacrosse team later on was another opportunity to be part of an environment that was just so inviting. I am so appreciative of Notre Dame for letting me be both a student-athlete and a student.

Cesia Diaz playing soccer

What are some top memories from your time as a student-athlete?

If I had to pick one for soccer, it would be my first game. It was just a wow moment for me, to realize that I’m actually playing college soccer. With lacrosse, it was making it to the championship game. Even though we lost, it was amazing to know that all of our efforts had gotten us to that point, and we played our hearts out. It was definitely an experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Cesia Diaz after a lacrosse game

What was your favorite place to visit on campus?

The team room or the athletic office are my favorite places to be. Someone can always find me napping there.

What are your current plans for after graduation?

I’m going to take a gap year to do more research and get more experience in the field, and then I’m hoping to go to grad school and eventually get my PhD in neuroscience. In the long-term, I would like to be a research coordinator, a PI (principal investigator), or something similar.

Is there any message that you’d like to give to NDMU students who are still working their way through college?

Don’t be ashamed if you have to take another year. Go at your pace, and don’t let anyone tell you can’t do something, or that you’re not going to make it. There are so many people at Notre Dame who want you to be successful, and they’re always there to help.

Established in 1895, Notre Dame of Maryland University (NDMU) is a private, Catholic institution in Baltimore, Maryland, with the mission to educate leaders to transform the world. Notre Dame has been named one of the best "Regional Universities North" by U.S. News & World Report.

Also in the news…