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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

The magic of music

Eighteen months ago, after finishing her PhD, Naomi Woo [2014] moved to Winnipeg to take up the role of assistant conductor of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. The role is a first stepping stone to a career conducting orchestras in Canada and internationally. In this position, Naomi has conducted concerts for all audiences, but also had […]

Exploring the neural bases of consciousness

New insights into how neurochemical influences from the brainstem affect the rest of the brain to bring about consciousness could help brain-damaged patients and further our understanding of how consciousness works. A new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [PNAS] by researchers at the Division of Anaesthesia, University of Cambridge investigates the […]

Knowledge gap on zoonotic disease transmission highlighted

The impact of climate change on migration patterns, particularly in areas which depend on agriculture and livestock, could affect zoonotic disease transmission yet little research has been done to date. A new study, led by Gates Cambridge Scholar and Veterinary Science PhD student Dorien Braam [2018], looks at the research that currently exists, but calls […]

Addressing climate change in words and action

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has called for the US federal government to establish a national, robust and legally binding net-zero target that emphasises comprehensiveness, equity and clarity on the role of offsets.  In an opinion piece in Arizona Republic, Stephen Lezak and his co-authors, including Kate Gallego, the mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, which has done […]

Gates Cambridge mentors: forging bonds and giving back

The Gates Cambridge Scholars Council has been running a mentoring programme since 2018 as part of an effort to bring alumni and scholars closer together, build a stronger sense of community and to give mentors a chance to give back. This year has seen a big increase in the number of mentors coming forward, with […]

Scholar joins COP26 net-zero initiative

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has been appointed as a climate change consultant on a new consortium working on a net-zero vision for the world ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference [COP26] in November. Ramit Debnath will be working on designing the India net-zero profile chapter of the vision along with in-country experts. The international […]

Scholar is co-first author of paper on early embryo development

A Gates Cambridge is co-first author on a paper which identifies key molecular events in the developing human embryo between days 7 and 14 – one of the most mysterious, yet critical, stages of our development. Bailey Weatherbee [2019], who is doing a PhD in Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, is co-first author of the paper […]

Scholar turns playwright to get her research out to a wider audience

Dr Mona Jebril [2012] did her PhD in Education on the multiple ways occupation and conflict in the Middle East have affected the mobility of academics in Gaza, their academic freedom and attempts to reform the higher education system. She is now an interdisciplinary social scientists and Research Fellow at Cambridge University’s Centre for Business […]

Scholar takes part in Deep Dive into tackling educational inequality

A Gates Cambridge Scholar participated in the first Gates Notes Deep Dive series with Bill Gates, where he invited early career scholars from around the US to talk about how data can help improve educational outcomes for Black and Latino students and students from low-income backgrounds. Michael Meaney [2016 – pictured right] was one of several graduate students who […]

Scholar to co-lead new entrepreneurship initiative

King’s College has set up a new Entrepreneurship Lab to equip King’s students with entrepreneurial skills and support those wishing to explore a career path in innovation, entrepreneurship and business. Gates Cambridge Scholar Kamiar Mohaddes [2005, pictured below] is co-director of the project and says he is keen for scholars to help mentor students. The King’s Entrepreneurship […]