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

Bill Gates Sr speaks about Gates Cambridge Scholarships during interview

Mr Bill Gates Sr. recently spoke at the Commonwealth Club of California. During the interview, Mr Gates was asked “What makes you speechless?”. He replied that one thing that made him speechless was his “trips to Cambridge to meet Gates Cambridge Scholars”. He described the programme as “awesome” and said of the time he spends […]

Gates Cambridge Trust at NAFA conference in Seattle

Representatives of the Gates Cambridge Trust and Gates Scholars’ Alumni Association attended the major US national scholarships conference in Seattle, WA last week. The National Association of Fellowship Advisors (NAFA) – now in its tenth year – holds biennial four-day conferences in the USA to discuss a range of matters relating to advising scholarship applicants […]

Two Gates Scholars Awarded Luce Scholarship

Congratulations to Jeremiah Schwarz (2008, PhD History) and Andrew Gruen (2008 MPhil in Modern Society and Global Transformation) for being awarded the Luce Scholarship. The Luce Fellowship is awarded to 15 to 18 young Americans each year so that they can take up a professional placement in the Far East. Jeremiah was awarded the fellowship […]

Gates Alumnus co-editor of new journal

Congratulations to Gates Alumnus Wale Adebanwi (2003, PhD Social Anthropology), co-editor of a new journal, Review of Leadership in Africa, published under the auspices of the Centre for Social Science Research and Development in Nigeria. The first edition of RoLA is out this month. For more information please send an email to:  

Gates Alumnus wins a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship

Congratulations to Gates Alumnus Alessio Ciulli (2002, PhD in Chemistry) for winning the prestigious BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship. To find out more about this fellowship please see:

Gates Scholar presents at world’s leading ideas conference

Ryan Adams, a Gates scholar who has just completed his PhD in physics at Cambridge, gave a presentation at one of the world’s leading ideas conferences last week. Ryan spoke at the ideaCity conference, held in Toronto on 15-17 July. He is profiled in the presenters’ section, alongside other speakers such as Robert F Kennedy […]

Gates scholars host international scholarship symposium

Gates Cambridge Scholars hosted the second annual Global Scholars Symposium on 24 June at Murray Edwards College (formerly New Hall).  The symposium brings together many of the major international scholar groups in the UK to foster friendship, cooperation and lasting ties between students of diverse cultural and professional backgrounds. Attendees included Commonwealth, Fulbright, Churchill, National […]

An audience with Bill and Melinda Gates

On Friday 12 June Bill and Melinda Gates came to Cambridge to collect their honorary degrees. A video of the ceremony is available here. Before the degree ceremony Bill and Melinda generously spent two and a half hours at Wolfson College meeting Gates Scholars and taking their questions. An article about the Wolfson event is […]

Gates Alumnus wins a Royal Society University Research Fellowship

Congratulations to Gates Alumnus Colin Russell (PhD Zoology 2002) for winning the prestigious Royal Society University Research Fellowship. To find out more about this fellowship please see

Glucose and Diabetes: Gates Scholars co-author article in The Lancet

Congratulations to Sreenivasa Rao Kondapally Seshesai and Sebhat Erqou on their co-authored article in last week’s issue of The Lancet, one of the UK’s leading medical journals. Their work, on the effect of intensive control of glucose on cardiovascular outcomes and death in patients with diabetes mellitus, found that overall, intensive as opposed to standard […]