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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

First cohort of 2024 Gates Cambridge Scholars announced

Twenty-six of the most academically outstanding and socially committed US citizens have been selected to be part of the 2024 class of Gates Cambridge Scholars at the University of Cambridge. The US Scholars-elect, who will take up their awards this October, are from a wide range of backgrounds. They come from 20 universities across the […]

What is education for?

Best-selling author Tara Westover [2009], researcher Aliya Khalid [2015] and Thabo Msibi [2009], Deputy Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning at the University of KwaZulu-Natal are the guests in the second edition of the Gates Cambridge podcast – out today. So, now what? sees the three Gates Cambridge Scholars tackling the issue of what education […]

Why technology needs feminism

What is good technology? Is ‘good’ technology even possible? And how can feminism contribute towards it? Those questions and more are at the heart of a new book co-edited by Gates Cambridge Scholar Dr Kerry McInerney and based on the popular podcast series she co-hosts. The Good Robot: Why technology needs feminism gathers together the thoughts of leading […]

‘Knowledge alone isn’t enough’

The summer before starting his PhD at the University of Cambridge, Rob Henderson was working up a book proposal with his literary agent. That book, Troubled, is published next month by Simon & Schuster and is part memoir, part social commentary.  In it Rob recounts his life growing up in foster care and his time […]

Connecting climate change and mental health

A Gates Cambridge Scholar is organising a webinar to publicise the formal launch of a public, online information hub on the intersection between climate change and mental health. Colleen Rollins [2017], editorial and project manager at the Climate Psychiatry Alliance, is working on the Ecopsychepedia (“EcoPsy”) project which will be the subject of a webinar […]

Reconnecting through music

When José Izquierdo [2013] was working on his PhD at Cambridge on how Latin American composers united European and local influences in the 19th century, he found a way to make his academic work come to life. Much of the music he was researching had never been heard before and he was also discovering old scores […]

Scholar on winning team for inaugural AI prize

A project on how local authorities in England can use AI ethically to improve the public value they offer has been selected as one of five winners of a new prize to support ambitious ideas for how artificial intelligence can address critical societal issues. The places and cities project team includes Gates Cambridge scholar Ramit […]

Gates Cambridge Scholar wins Sundance directing award

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has won the US Documentary Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival for an investigation into systematic abuse at an Indian residential school in Canada. Emily Kassie co-directed the film Sugarcane.  Described as “a gripping investigation of unmarked graves at an Indian residential school”, it uncovers a litany of forced family […]

Celebrating science in Pune

Why do we forget most of our memories from infancy? How can psychedelics help rats decide better? What happens when worms are high on cannabis? These were some of the questions I was asked at the India Science Festival (ISF), organised by the Foundation for Advancing Science and Technology, India. The festival was held at […]

Gates Cambridge launches podcast

Gates Cambridge is launching its first official podcast next week. So, now what? is for anyone looking for ideas, vision and optimism about how we can practically tackle some of the world’s most complex and challenging problems. Scholars from a range of different backgrounds and disciplines will share the actions they are taking to change […]