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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

Reports chart impact of climate change on health

Europe is facing unprecedented and overlapping crises that are detrimental to human health and livelihoods which continued investment in fossil fuels is exacerbating, according to the first indicator report** of a new continent-wide collaboration. The 2022 Lancet Countdown in Europe Report, published today in The Lancet Public Health journal, is the result of a newly […]

Unknown spiders, organic soap and Land Rovers on the road to Cambridge

When he was on his gap year Alberto Borges [2022] travelled to the north of Kenya to explore a remote area of the country which he knew little about. While there, he took a photograph which proved to be life-changing. It was of a camel spider-like creature with 10 legs and it turned out that […]

Toy hackathon helps children with severe disabilities to communicate

A first of its kind toy hackathon has been organised by a Gates Cambridge Scholar to help children with severe disabilities communicate with the world. Pradipta Biswas [2006], associate professor at the Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing and associate faculty at Robert Bosch Centre for Cyber Physical Systems at the Indian Institute of Technology in […]

Dust plumes observed being ‘pushed’ into interstellar space by intense starlight

Astronomers have observed directly for the first time how intense light from stars can ‘push’ matter. Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Sydney made the observation when tracking a giant plume of dust generated by the violent interactions between two massive stars. The results, made using infrared images of the binary star system WR140 taken […]

Towards a dictionary of the human genome

Marie Brunet’s research focuses on the secrets still hidden in our genomes. She says that despite the fact that we live in an era where getting our genome sequenced is possible, we still don’t know the origin of two fifths of inherited diseases. That is because, as she says, the genome only currently maps the […]

Scholar recognised for research into misinformation

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has been shortlisted for a Women of the Future Award for her research into countering misinformation. Melisa Basol [2018] was shortlisted for the science category of the UK Awards which recognises “truly remarkable female scientists, forging new ground in research and scientific achievement”. There are 11 other categories and three special […]

Scholars join forces on anti-cancer drug

Two Gates Cambridge Scholars have joined forces to work on a drug candidate that has the potential to replace one of the most widely used cancer drugs around the world. Dr Anand Jeyasekharan [2004], who did his PhD in Oncology, and Dr Chandler Robinson [2009] who did an MBA at Cambridge, will collaborate on a […]

Making the experiences of imprisoned women activists visible

Growing up in a small town in Bengal, Jigisha Bhattacharya [2022] developed a particular sensitivity to marginalised groups and conflicts between different communities and identities from an early age.  It is this interest and her experience of political protests at university, combined with a longstanding curiosity about the links between politics and the arts, that […]

The study of images in the computer age

Scholar-Elect Tristan Dot [2022] grew up with an interest in computer science and a passion for art history. As time evolved he began to see the similarities between computer vision and art history and has created his own works of art, using computer-generated images.  He says: “Art history is the study of images and so […]

Preventive approaches to protect the mind

How can we protect our brain health in the same way as our heart health? That’s the question that Gates Cambridge Scholar Ayan Mandal’s first book attempts to answer. A Stethoscope for the Brain: Preventive Approaches to Protect the Mind is about proactive strategies to prevent brain diseases and is based in large part on Mandal’s PhD research […]