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

Gates Distinguished Lecture, Wednesday 29 April

To start the Easter Term Gates Distinguished Lecture Series, Sir Richard Dearlove will talk on Wednesday 29 April on ‘A 21st Century View of National Security’. Sir Richard is Master of Pembroke College, and former Head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). A graduate of Queens’ College, Cambridge, he began his tenure with MI6 […]

Gates Cambridge Trust 10th Anniversary

The year 2010 is the tenth anniversary of the Gates Cambridge Trust.  An important milestone, to be marked by a weekend of celebration in Cambridge for Gates scholars and alumni, from Friday 2 to Sunday 4 July. Since the first cohort of Gates Scholars arrived in Cambridge in October 2001, the Gates community both within […]

Distinguished Lecture Series: Dr. James Nataro

Distinguished Lecture Series: Dr. James Nataro “Vaccine Development in the Year 2100”   Cambridge University Communications Office: Vaccines could eventually be developed which could prevent the deaths hundreds of thousands of children a year from diarrhoea, according to an international expert in infectious disease. Dr James P Nataro, a major researcher in vaccine development and […]

New US Gates Scholars announced

The Trust is pleased to announce the names of the new Gates Cambridge Scholars from the USA who were selected in Annapolis, MD on 6 and 7 February 2009. Full details are available from the New US Scholars 2009 page. An article on the new scholars is available from

Cambridge-Zheijang exchange programme organised by Gates Scholar

Xiaohan Pan (2005) has organised The Undergraduate Exchange Programme between Zhejiang University and the University of Cambridge to promote mutual understanding and potential cooperation between undergraduates in these two leading universities. Read the full article at  

Gates Scholar article in The Guardian on-line

Chloe Schama (2007) has written an article on ‘Funding the Arts Economy’ for Guardian Newspaper on-line. Chloe puts forward the case for supporting the arts in tough economic times. Read the full article.

Gates Scholar wins NC3R prize

Congratulations to Gates Scholar Tom Johnson (2006) (pictured below left) and his mentor Dr Keith Martin (pictured below right). The pair have been awarded the prestigious NC3R prize for their paper on a new model that can be used to investigate stem cell therapy for retinal disease, which will replace the use of animals in […]

Chinese Gates Scholar featured in Guardian newspaper

Xiaohan Pan (2005), a Chinese Gates Scholar, is featured in the this week’s Guardian newspaper. Xiaohan relates her experience of undergraduate education in China, where she was one of the top students at Zheijang University near Shanghai. At Cambridge, Xiaohan is currently completing her PhD on novel contact lens glucose sensor to achieve real-time glucose […]

Gates Scholars on Film

We are delighted to present a short film about the scholarships and scholars of the Gates Cambridge Trust. The aim of the film is to showcase the work of the Trust since its inception in 2001. We hope that it will encourage applicants from any part of the world, and in any academic discipline, to […]

Dinosaur meets Gates Scholar

One of the smallest dinosaur skulls ever discovered has been identified by a team of scientists from London, Cambridge and Chicago, including Gates alumna Laura Porro (2004) who is now a post-doc at the University of Chicago. The skull would have been only 45mm long, and belonged to a very young heterodontosaurus, an early dinosaur […]