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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 is finalist for prestigious business book award

A Gates Cambridge Scholar is in the running for a prestigious business book publishing prize for her proposal on the pioneering work of climate change entrepreneurs. Âriel de Fauconberg is one of three finalists for the  Financial Times and McKinsey’s Bracken Bower Award for her book proposal, Before the Dawn: Racing to net zero on […]

Is climate change affecting animals’ body size?

New evidence shows that some mammals increase in size in warmer settings, upsetting established norms and suggesting that climate change may be having an unexpected impact on animal body size. The study*, published in Scientific Reports, finds that recent changes in treeshrew body size subvert two of the most studied ecogeographical rules about body size […]

How anti-black logic travelled back to Africa

When she first started doing Women’s Studies, Ola Osman [2019] spent time in Liberia researching the impact of the civil war on women. For her PhD she has taken a step back to look at the deeper roots of Liberian politics and how the repatriation of enslaved people during the ‘Back to Africa’ Movement in […]

Research impact award for pangolin expert

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has been selected for the University of Cambridge’s Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Research Impact and Engagement for his work with communities and law enforcement agents in Nigeria to curb pangolin poaching and trafficking. Charles Emogor won the Early Career Researcher award for his work on pangolin conservation. He founded Panoglino, a Nigerian […]

Reports chart impact of climate change on health

Europe is facing unprecedented and overlapping crises that are detrimental to human health and livelihoods which continued investment in fossil fuels is exacerbating, according to the first indicator report** of a new continent-wide collaboration. The 2022 Lancet Countdown in Europe Report, published today in The Lancet Public Health journal, is the result of a newly […]

Unknown spiders, organic soap and Land Rovers on the road to Cambridge

When he was on his gap year Alberto Borges [2022] travelled to the north of Kenya to explore a remote area of the country which he knew little about. While there, he took a photograph which proved to be life-changing. It was of a camel spider-like creature with 10 legs and it turned out that […]

Toy hackathon helps children with severe disabilities to communicate

A first of its kind toy hackathon has been organised by a Gates Cambridge Scholar to help children with severe disabilities communicate with the world. Pradipta Biswas [2006], associate professor at the Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing and associate faculty at Robert Bosch Centre for Cyber Physical Systems at the Indian Institute of Technology in […]

Dust plumes observed being ‘pushed’ into interstellar space by intense starlight

Astronomers have observed directly for the first time how intense light from stars can ‘push’ matter. Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Sydney made the observation when tracking a giant plume of dust generated by the violent interactions between two massive stars. The results, made using infrared images of the binary star system WR140 taken […]

Towards a dictionary of the human genome

Marie Brunet’s research focuses on the secrets still hidden in our genomes. She says that despite the fact that we live in an era where getting our genome sequenced is possible, we still don’t know the origin of two fifths of inherited diseases. That is because, as she says, the genome only currently maps the […]

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 […]