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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

Scholar recognised for research into misinformation

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has been shortlisted for a Women of the Future Award for her research into countering misinformation. Melisa Basol [2018] was shortlisted for the science category of the UK Awards which recognises “truly remarkable female scientists, forging new ground in research and scientific achievement”. There are 11 other categories and three special […]

Scholars join forces on anti-cancer drug

Two Gates Cambridge Scholars have joined forces to work on a drug candidate that has the potential to replace one of the most widely used cancer drugs around the world. Dr Anand Jeyasekharan [2004], who did his PhD in Oncology, and Dr Chandler Robinson [2009] who did an MBA at Cambridge, will collaborate on a […]

Making the experiences of imprisoned women activists visible

Growing up in a small town in Bengal, Jigisha Bhattacharya [2022] developed a particular sensitivity to marginalised groups and conflicts between different communities and identities from an early age.  It is this interest and her experience of political protests at university, combined with a longstanding curiosity about the links between politics and the arts, that […]

The study of images in the computer age

Scholar-Elect Tristan Dot [2022] grew up with an interest in computer science and a passion for art history. As time evolved he began to see the similarities between computer vision and art history and has created his own works of art, using computer-generated images.  He says: “Art history is the study of images and so […]

Preventive approaches to protect the mind

How can we protect our brain health in the same way as our heart health? That’s the question that Gates Cambridge Scholar Ayan Mandal’s first book attempts to answer. A Stethoscope for the Brain: Preventive Approaches to Protect the Mind is about proactive strategies to prevent brain diseases and is based in large part on Mandal’s PhD research […]

The origins of witchcraft trials

How did stereotypes about witches and witchcraft emerge as Christianity took hold in Europe? Larissa de Freitas Lyth [2022] has researched the early part of the medieval era as Christianity co-existed beside widespread pagan practices and documents suggesting how confessors should deal with certain behaviour, particularly related to sexuality. For her PhD, which she begins in the […]

The nine actions necessary for successful ecological restoration

Researchers have developed a set of nine broad-based actions to guide ecological restoration to the benefit of both nature and wider society. The nine actions are outlined in a recent studypublished in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution. First author is Gates Cambridge Scholar Michael Pashkevich [2017], who did his PhD in Zoology. The […]

The journey to space and back

Kayla Barron never imagined that she would be an astronaut when she was a Gates Cambridge Scholar back in 2010/11. But through being open-minded and taking ‘one decision at a time’, inspired by a desire to find where she could contribute and challenge herself the most, she made it into space. Just back from a […]

A multidisciplinary eye on regional challenges

Promise Frank Ejiofor has been on an intellectual journey over the last years, starting with philosophy and moving through international relations, politics and anthropology before arriving at development studies. He has also studied in a variety of different settings, from Ghana and Azerbaijan to Hungary and Cambridge, which has also given him a broad perspective. […]

War in Ukraine: past, present and future

Could the war against Ukraine have been predicted? What is the situation now and will President Putin ever face international justice? These were some of the questions discussed by a panel of three Gates Cambridge Alumni at this year’s recent Gates Alumni Weekend which was attended by 32 alumni and 12 scholars from 19 countries. […]