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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

Making offices safer and more efficient

A new white paper, co-authored by a Gates Cambridge Scholar, has been published which aims to improve the safety and efficiency of office buildings – a key issue during the pandemic. The paper,  A Virtual Reality-Based Digital Twin of workspaces, was published in January in collaboration with British Telecom and was co-authored by Pradipta Biswas, Assistant […]

Scholar heads to Winter Olympics

A Gates Cambridge Scholar is heading for Beijing where he will coach the Australian mixed doubles curling team in the Winter Olympics. The Australian Olympic Committee announced their selection of Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt for the mixed doubles curling event at the Winter Olympics over the weekend, and Pete Manasantivongs as their coach. The […]

More trustworthy diagnoses through better algorithms

Mateo Espinosa is interested in exploring the medical applications of machine learning, specifically how machine learning can be used to provide trustworthy and interpretable diagnosis and prognosis predictions. His aim is to understand the decision-making process in order to reduce the room for error and develop better treatments. He says that over the course of […]

Rethinking capitalism through community currencies

Can community currencies enable people to rethink their relationship with money? Lila Gaudêncio’s PhD, which she began this autumn, will explore the impact of community currencies in Brazil, introduced as a public policy by former President Lula’s government in 2003 to protect and develop local economies. Over 150 banks were created as a result, of […]

New grafting technique could combat disease threatening banana crops

Grafting is the technique of joining the shoot of one plant with the root of another so they continue to grow together as one. Until now it was thought impossible to graft grass-like plants in the group known as monocotyledons because they lack a specific tissue type, called the vascular cambium, in their stem. Researchers […]

Scholar aims to be LA’s next City Controller

Reid Lidow is in election mode. He is campaigning to be  City Controller of his home town, Los Angeles, and he sees it as a chance to improve the lives of his fellow citizens, in keeping with the Gates Cambridge mission. He wants to reimagine the office and help it to be “a force multiplier” […]

How can teenagers build resilience?

Blanca Piera Pi-Sunyer [2021] has long been fascinated by the impact of our social and cultural context on how we view the world. Understanding this is particularly important for teenagers as their brain continues to develop, and 75% of socioemotional disorders begin in adolescence. Understanding this has become a more urgent issue in the light […]

‘Humanitarian aid should take account of livestock needs’

Humanitarian support for livestock-dependent populations displaced by climate change and disasters must take livelihood needs into account to support health and aid longer-term recovery, according to a new study. The study, ‘Disaster displacement and zoonotic disease dynamics: The impact of structural and chronic drivers in Sindh, Pakistan’, is led by Dorien Braam and published in […]

Understanding depression in all its complexity

“Imagine if there were such a thing as a ‘Coughing Disorder’,” says Richard Dear. “Doctors can see that you are coughing, but have no idea if the cough is caused by Covid, tuberculosis or something stuck in your throat. These underlying causes all need different treatments, but imagine that doctors don’t even agree on the […]

Comic book tells story of inspiring female leader

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has co-created a comic book on an inspiring Indian woman farmer who developed a one-acre cropping model to combat drought, debt and distress in her region. The book,  Raindrop in the Drought: Godavari Dange, by Reetika Subramanian and Maitri Dore, tells the story of Godavari Tai from Marathwada in Maharashtra state […]