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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

Addressing the mental health emergency

Mental health has been rising up the global health priority list over the last few years, but Covid accelerated it. Yet the resources available to those in crisis situations are few. Gates Cambridge Scholar Usama Mirza is addressing one particular gap in his home country of Pakistan, having recently launched Asia’s first mental health ambulance […]

Food security in Africa through a multi-disciplinary lens

Three Gates Cambridge Scholars are collaborating on an innovative project to map and address the disappearance of historically undervalued African indigenous and traditional food crops at a time of climate crisis. The project is the brainchild of Dr Carol Ibe, founder of the JR Biotek Foundation, a charity which trains, upskills and empowers present and […]

Double winner

Jenna Armstrong has done it again. Last year she was part of the winning Cambridge women’s rowing team and her team did it again last weekend. Jenna [2020] started rowing in 2011 as an undergraduate, but took five years off from 2015 to 2020 until she picked it up again when she started at Cambridge. She […]

What does extreme weather mean for us?

Three Gates Cambridge Scholars from China, the US and India are taking part in the third episode of the Gates Cambridge podcast, So, now what? which is out today [26th March] as part of the Cambridge Festival’s Festival of Podcasts. The episode, featuring Victoria Herrmann [2015], Songqiao Yao [2014] and Ramit Debnath [2018] and hosted […]

Gates Cambridge seeks Interim Director

About us  The Gates Cambridge mission is to build a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others. We achieve this mission by selecting outstanding scholars from countries outside the UK and providing them with full-cost scholarships to pursue postgraduate degrees in any subject available at the University of Cambridge. Gates […]

Seeing the world through AI

Tristan Dot [2022] will be exhibiting two of his installations at this year’s Cambridge Festival. Am I Normal? and Dreamy Cops features installations that investigate notions of AI, including computer vision, surveillance, the human body and normativity. Tristan is doing a PhD in digital art history at Cambridge Digital Humanities. His exhibition takes place from […]

Gates Cambridge Annual Lecture to focus on ways out of permacrisis

This year’s Gates Cambridge Lecture will include a Nobel Laureate, a President of a Cambridge college and, for the first time, a Gates Cambridge Scholar. The Lecture, A global turning point: how to escape the permacrisis, will be given on 22nd April [5-7.30pm] at St John’s College and will feature Nobel Laureate and economist Michael […]

Gates Cambridge at the Cambridge Festival

Gates Cambridge Scholars will be speaking at the Cambridge Festival next month on a range of topics, from climate change social entrepreneurs to local currencies and AI. The Cambridge Festival  runs from 13th to 28th March and is teeming with hundreds of events, most of them free, which celebrate the rich research being done at the […]

First cohort of 2024 Gates Cambridge Scholars announced

Twenty-six of the most academically outstanding and socially committed US citizens have been selected to be part of the 2024 class of Gates Cambridge Scholars at the University of Cambridge. The US Scholars-elect, who will take up their awards this October, are from a wide range of backgrounds. They come from 20 universities across the […]

What is education for?

Best-selling author Tara Westover [2009], researcher Aliya Khalid [2015] and Thabo Msibi [2009], Deputy Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning at the University of KwaZulu-Natal are the guests in the second edition of the Gates Cambridge podcast – out today. So, now what? sees the three Gates Cambridge Scholars tackling the issue of what education […]