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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

An existential detective novel

Amanda Dennis‘ first novel Her Here, published in March, tells the story of Elena, who has lost her mother and is suffering from memory loss caused by the trauma of finding her dead. She is asked by her mother’s friend to search for her daughter Ella, who went missing in Thailand six years earlier, through […]

Scholar wins history of education prize

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has won a prestigious history of education award for her book on the origins and influence of the education reformers in early 20th Spain. Anna Kathryn Kendrick won the International Standing Conference for the History of Education’s First Book Award for her book, Humanizing Childhood in Early Twentieth-Century Spain. It traces […]

Taking machine learning to the next level

Alex Davies has spent much of his academic career at the cutting edge of Computer Science and machine learning, unafraid to experiment across disciplines and push the boundaries. Early in his PhD he created a Twitter map of happiness based on emoticons, which drew a lot of media interest. Shortly after finishing, he collaborated on […]

Climate change: the world’s greatest challenge

Three Gates Cambridge alumnae took part in the first of a series of online panels to celebrate the scholarship programme’s 20th anniversary. The panel discussion, Climate change: the world’s greatest challenge, took place on the day that the Gates Cambridge Class of 2021 was officially announced. The panel was introduced and hosted by Professor Stephen […]

Class of 2021 announced

The Gates Cambridge Class of 2021 made up of 74 outstanding new scholars has been officially announced. The Gates Cambridge scholarship programme, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary, is the University of Cambridge’s leading international postgraduate scholarship programme. It was established through a US$210 million donation to the University of Cambridge from the Bill […]

Serotonin and its role in emotional responses

Two new studies which shed light on the role of serotonin in emotional responses have been published in leading journals. Jonathan Kanen [2015] is lead author of both. The first is published in Translational Psychiatry and looked at the influence of the neurotransmitter serotonin on emotional reactions to social conflict. The study involved volunteers drawing […]

Scholar wins NASA Fellowship

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has won a prestigious NASA Fellowship to continue his studies on exoplanets. Luis Welbanks has been awarded a NASA Hubble Fellowship and will begin his programme in the autumn at Arizona State University. The Fellowship programme “enables outstanding postdoctoral scientists to pursue independent research in any area of NASA Astrophysics, using […]

Covid safety for healthcare workers in resource-poor contexts

How can healthcare workers in low- and middle-income countries protect themselves from Covid-19 contamination if resources to fund PPE are limited? A new study, led by Gates Cambridge Scholar Dylan Griswold, shows which PPE is the most protective for those working in emergency trauma surgery and how it can safely be reused. The report reviewed […]

Passages to India

Meena Venkataramanan’s undergraduate thesis at Harvard combines her passion for journalism with her interest in exploring her own identity as an Asian American. The thesis is a series of personal essays which she calls “metaphorical passages to India”. Meena’s parents are from India and Meena was born in the UK before moving to the US […]

Gates Cambridge Scholars to speak at inaugural Cambridge Festival

Several Gates Cambridge Scholars will be taking part in the inaugural Cambridge Festival which starts on Friday. The online Festival, which runs from 26th March to 4th April, brings together the Cambridge Science Festival and the Festival of Ideas to host an extensive programme of over 350 events that tackle many critical global challenges affecting us […]