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Benjamin Cocanougher

Benjamin Cocanougher

  • Alumni
  • United States
  • 2016 PhD Zoology
  • St Catharine's College

I grew up catching praying mantises and damselflies in rural Kentucky. As an undergraduate at Centre College, I majored in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; I spent my summers taking care of sick children at the Center for Courageous Kids and doing research in organic chemistry and neuroscience. I matriculated directly to the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and completed my first three years of medical school. I then moved to Janelia Research Campus as a HHMI Medical Research Fellow; there I studied the neural and genetic bases of behavior. As a PhD student in Zoology, I will study adaptive behavior. All animals integrate information about past experience into future decisions; this is the basis of learning and memory. I am proposing to write a specific memory and read the memory trace in the brain. I will use the fruit fly as a model organism. By understanding mechanisms of memory storage, we can begin to investigate changes in memory formation in disease; this may allow us to develop rational therapies for disorders of memory formation, including autism and Alzheimer’s disease. After completing my PhD, I will return to finish my last year of medical school and pursue a career as a child neurologist and neuroscientist, using my lab to better understand the patients I see in clinic.

Previous Education

Centre College

Latest News

New book deal for Gates Cambridge Scholar

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has signed a deal to write a book on Indigenous climate justice. The Longest Night will be published by Atria Books, part of Simon & Schuster, and was selected as the deal of the day by Publishers Marketplace earlier this week. Described as “a stunning exploration of the High North and […]

Why understanding risk for different populations can reduce cardiovascular deaths

The incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) – the number one cause of death globally – can be reduced significantly by understanding the risk faced by different populations better, according to a new study. Identifying individuals at high risk and intervening to reduce risk before an event occurs underpins the majority of national and international primary […]

How can we create a more tolerant world?

Three Gates Cambridge scholars debate how we can create a more tolerant world in the sixth episode* of the podcast So, now what?, launched today. Alina Utrata, José Izquierdo and Farhan Samanani explore the importance of face-to-face interactions, trust and cooperation in building tolerance. They also examine the role of technology and social media in […]

Building Indigenous people’s citizenship rights: the role of heritage

Oscar Espinoza Martin [2024] sees archaeology and cultural heritage as tools for strengthening Indigenous people’s sense of citizenship. “It is important how people feel about their past and how they navigate from there to the present,” he says. As an Indigenous person growing up in Lima with an early interest in history and philosophy, he […]

Scholar appointed VP of the Human Frontier Science Program

A former Gates Cambridge Scholar has been elected a Vice President of the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP), an international programme funding excellent frontier research in the life sciences. Christian Boehm’s appointment was announced in late June at an event in Washington D.C. to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the HFSP. The programme, founded in […]

Inside Unit X

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has co-authored a book which gives an inside look at Unit X, the elite unit within the Pentagon that brings Silicon Valley’s cutting-edge technology to America’s military. Christopher Kirchhoff is co-author with Raj M Shah of Unit X: How the Pentagon and Silicon Valley Are Transforming the Future of War, published […]

Gates Cambridge welcomes new Interim Director

Dr Holly Tilbrook has been appointed Interim Director of Gates Cambridge. Currently Deputy Director in the Academic Centres Division at the University of Cambridge, Dr Tilbrook joins Gates Cambridge in August following a diverse career at the University of Cambridge. She describes herself as “the classic generalist administrator”. Starting in the Faculty of Classics in […]

How can we strengthen political legitimacy in a polarised world?

Three Scholars debate how we can strengthen political legitimacy in a polarised world in the latest episode of the Gates Cambridge podcast, out today. Promise Frank Ejiofor [2022] who is doing a PhD in Development Studies, Ayala Panievsky [2018], a journalist and PhD student in  Sociology and political neuroscientist Leor Zmigrod explore the psychological and […]

Towards better public service delivery in Pakistan

Rafi Kakar [2024] is keen to contribute to better public service delivery and development outcomes in Pakistan by employing a research approach that blends theory with the realities of public policymaking. He believes that the devolution of social sectors to the provinces in 2010 has created both challenges and opportunities for governance reforms and improvements […]

Using virtual reality in the service of stroke recovery

Brielle Stark [2012] is pioneering new ways of approaching the language problems faced by stroke patients. She was recently awarded a Fulbright Scholar Award to conduct research in Australia, starting in Spring 2025. She will be moving to Australia to work with her long-time colleague Dr Lucy Bryant at the University of Technology Sydney on […]