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Life’s Big Questions

Cai Guo '16

Cai Guo '16, a double major in philosophy and psychology, enjoys the winter landscape in Pamukkale, Turkey, during the 2013 winter break. Photo courtesy of Guo.

Cai Guo ’16

As an international student from China, John Dickinson scholar Cai Guo '16 loves to explore new cultures; last winter break, he spent a month trekking solo across the Middle East. But this adventurer also relishes solitary study and reflection. Imaginative and philosophical, Guo favors books and movies that plunder the complexities of the human experience, and he's poised for a scholarly career in that vein. Learn about his summer internship at Harvard, his poetic twin, his chosen area of research and the magical career he envisioned as a child.



Philosophy and psychology (French minor).

Clubs and organizations:

Psi Chi, Alpha Lambda Delta, Psychology Club and Neuroscience Club.

Favorite professor:

A good teacher can change your life. I realized this last spring, after I serendipitously signed up for a research-design course with Professor [of Psychology] Marie Helweg-Larsen. She was extremely strict, but it was her strictness and professionalism that helped me lay a solid foundation in psychological research and in APA [American Psychological Association] writing style. I’ll benefit from that my whole life.

Favorite place on campus:

Althouse basement.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Banana cake.

What I’m doing this summer:

As a research assistant in Harvard University's Lab for Developmental Studies, I have the opportunity to examine philosophical inquiries and psychological problems in a nationally renowned lab. By studying how children view the world and develop their knowledge systems, I am able to glimpse how human beings develop from unsophisticated infants to intelligent and complicated adults. 

Biggest influence:

My mom. When I was a child, she taught me how appreciate stillness and silence, and how to find meaning and consolation in books.

On choosing a major:

I aim to be a scholar specializing in the mind-body problem. I decided to major in philosophy and psychology so I can examine this problem from both the humanistic and scientific angles. In this way, my investigation can be more exhaustive.

Favorite books:

If On A Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino, Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke and El Aleph and Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges.

Favorite movies:

The Decalogue series (1988), A Short Film About Love (1988), The Hours (2002) and Eternity and a Day (1998).

As a kid, I wanted to be …

… a pharmacologist. I imagined medications to be mysterious magical potions, and I was mesmerized by what I imagined to be the magic effects of different medications.

If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, it would be …

… Rainer Maria Rilke. Sometimes I feel as if he were my monozygotic counterpart in the remote past. 

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Published July 7, 2014