Blazing his own path from humanities to mechanical engineering

Today marks International Youth Day,  let's read our Tsinghuaren Cao Shengfan's story of pursuing dreams and feel the passion and courage that youth have.

When he received an offer for the Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. program from the University of California, Berkeley, Cao Shengfan from the School of Humanities posted on his social media, “When you believe”.

It was a moment like this Shengfan spent the past four years preparing for with persistence and hard work.


Enrolled in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures in 2017, Shengfan has majored in Japanese, acquiring a new language and deepening his understanding of different cultures and also “how to become a more decent person”.

Studying the humanities, he says, has helped him to think critically, develop empathy and avoid utilitarianism. But he always wanted his studies to go beyond the realm of the humanities to more “practical” fields.


And so in his freshman year, he chose to pursue a second major in mechanical engineering, finding arts and beauty in engineering. It was not an easy decision to make, and even more challenging to stick it out. But he was not giving up.  

Throughout his college days, a tight schedule became a part of his everyday life, with a wide range of courses covering different subjects to attend.

“I felt lonely and hard at times, but I have no regrets.”

He later joined the research team of Prof. Hu Chuxiong from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, who has been impressed by Shengfan’s great enthusiasm. “He is not just all talk. I believe he will work something out in the future,” says Prof. Hu of Shengfan.  

Prof. Hu offered advice and other help as Shengfan prepared for his postgraduate application. Coincidentally, the day Shengfan received his offer was the birthday of the professor. “I am truly happy, and I feel highly hopeful about his future,” says Prof. Hu.


Along his challenging journey, a piano has always accompanied Shengfan. He serves as the leader of the Clavier Team and has composed the melody of the theme song for the 2021 Student Carnival of the School of Humanities. For him, “music is also a type of language, speaking of all the inspirations and feelings in life”.

In his eyes, the most impressive performance he gave as a piano player was playing Chopin’s Ballade No.4 inf Minor Op.52 last year. “I didn't think I could handle this piece until I performed. Now I feel all the experiences and growth empower me to resonate with Chopin.”

Now, Shengfan says he will miss his time at Tsinghua but looks forward to embarking on the next phase of his academic journey. 


Sometimes we are just one step away from dreams and what’s missing is the courage to move forward without turning back. The future of Shengfan is just unfolding.

Wish him a successful journey ahead with numerous marvelous moments and beautiful dreams.

Writer: Wu Kunqiang

Editors: Liu Zhaoxi, Liu Shutian, Sangeet Sangroula

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