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

Evolution of two contagious cancers affecting Tasmanian devils underlines unpredictability of disease threat

Scientists, including Gates Cambridge Scholar Maximilian Stammnitz [2016], have traced the family trees of two transmissible cancers that affect Tasmanian devils and have pinpointed mutations which may drive growth of deadly diseases. Transmissible cancers, which occur only rarely in the animal kingdom, are spread by the transfer of living cancer cells. In the case of Tasmanian […]

Lethal heatwaves threaten India’s sustainable development

Climate change-induced heatwaves in 2022 left almost 90 percent of Indians more vulnerable to public health issues, shortages of food staples and increased risks of death, according to a new study led by Gates Cambridge Scholar Dr Ramit Debnath [2018] published in the PLOS Climate journal. India currently uses a national Climate Vulnerability Indicator (CVI) to measure […]

The green potential of supramolecular cages

Growing up in Houston, Texas, Sabrina Hu [2023] experienced and saw first hand the destructive impacts of climate change as hurricanes increased in both frequency and severity over the last decade. When she started studying Chemistry at university she soon saw its potential for contributing to tackling climate change and she also got involved in […]

Gates Cambridge Class of 2023 announced

The Gates Cambridge Class of 2023 made up of 77 outstanding new scholars has been officially announced. The Gates Cambridge scholarship programme is the University of Cambridge’s flagship international postgraduate scholarship programme. It was established through a US$210 million donation to the University of Cambridge from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000; this […]

From alpine skier to rowing champion

Jenna Armstrong is feeling a mixture of pure joy and relief. She is one of this year’s winning Cambridge women’s rowing team. The elation follows months of gruelling training every morning and evening. Jenna [2020] started rowing in 2011 as an undergraduate, but took five years off from 2015 to 2020 until she picked it […]

Pushing the boundaries of bioprinting

“Can we print a functional intestine?” That was Josh Weygant’s first question when he saw how living cells were printed with a 3D printer. It was perhaps an oddly specific question, but Josh has lived all his life with a rare disease which has led to a large part of his intestine being removed when […]

Gates Cambridge collaboration leads to re-interpretation of ancient text

Two Gates Cambridge Scholars have joined forces to correct a mistake that has persisted in classical scholarship for over 400 years. Daniel Hanigan [2019] and Grant Kynaston [2019] have just published Autopsy and didactic authority: rethinking the prologue of the Periodos to Nicomedes, an article in Classical Quarterly, the leading journal in Classical Studies, in […]

Widening access through MOOCs

People without college degrees perform better at entry-level MOOCs specifically designed to increase access to university enrolment, researchers have found. The study, The  Promise  of  MOOCs  Revisited?  Demographics  of  Learners  Preparing  for University, led by Gates Cambridge Scholar Mike Meaney [2016], has just been published in the Journal of Learning Analytics. It is the first time […]

Scholar on Clinton Foundation initiative panel

Gates Cambridge Scholar Shadrack Frimpong has spoken on a panel chaired by former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Clinton Global Initiative University. Shadrack participated in a session on 4th March in Nashville, chaired by Clinton, on Protecting the Rights of Girls and Women During Conflict and Uncertainty. He spoke about the need to combine academic […]

Peace through gender equality

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has co-authored a book on how best to engage more men in gender equality. William McInerney is co-author of Das Buch, Das Jeder Mann Lesen Sollte: In 4 Schritten zum Feministen [The Book that Every Man Should Read: 4 Steps to Becoming a Feminist], which has just been released in Germany. […]