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

The origins of witchcraft trials

How did stereotypes about witches and witchcraft emerge as Christianity took hold in Europe? Larissa de Freitas Lyth [2022] has researched the early part of the medieval era as Christianity co-existed beside widespread pagan practices and documents suggesting how confessors should deal with certain behaviour, particularly related to sexuality. For her PhD, which she begins in the […]

The nine actions necessary for successful ecological restoration

Researchers have developed a set of nine broad-based actions to guide ecological restoration to the benefit of both nature and wider society. The nine actions are outlined in a recent studypublished in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution. First author is Gates Cambridge Scholar Michael Pashkevich [2017], who did his PhD in Zoology. The […]

The journey to space and back

Kayla Barron never imagined that she would be an astronaut when she was a Gates Cambridge Scholar back in 2010/11. But through being open-minded and taking ‘one decision at a time’, inspired by a desire to find where she could contribute and challenge herself the most, she made it into space. Just back from a […]

A multidisciplinary eye on regional challenges

Promise Frank Ejiofor has been on an intellectual journey over the last years, starting with philosophy and moving through international relations, politics and anthropology before arriving at development studies. He has also studied in a variety of different settings, from Ghana and Azerbaijan to Hungary and Cambridge, which has also given him a broad perspective. […]

War in Ukraine: past, present and future

Could the war against Ukraine have been predicted? What is the situation now and will President Putin ever face international justice? These were some of the questions discussed by a panel of three Gates Cambridge Alumni at this year’s recent Gates Alumni Weekend which was attended by 32 alumni and 12 scholars from 19 countries. […]

First map of oil palm sustainability interventions

Oil palm expansion is known for its severe environmental impacts, but are there ways to mitigate its harm in order to reap the most from its benefits? A new study in PLOS Sustainability and Transformation this week presents a review of oil palm management strategies that might support more sustainable cultivation and is the first extensive systematic map […]

Why we need to tackle the problem of overconsumption

The wealthiest in the world need to reduce their over-consumption in order for climate change goals to be met and for the sustainability of the planet, Professor Bhaskar Vira told a gathering of Gates Cambridge alumni at the weekend. Professor Vira, a Gates Cambridge Trustee and soon to be Pro Vice Chancellor for Education as […]

Championing a new generation of writers

Deus Kansiime [2022] became fascinated as an undergraduate student in Uganda by the gap between the literature he was being taught and the literary texts that had currency on the Ugandan cultural scene. These texts were produced by an emerging generation of writers about whom his university professors knew very little about or had very little […]

Tackling misinformation about climate change

Gates Cambridge Scholar Ramit Debnath has been awarded an inaugural Cambridge Zero Fellowship to improve public understanding of climate change. Ramit [2018],  a computational social scientist who did his PhD at the Univeristy of Cambridge,  is currently a sustainability fellow at Churchill College and a visiting faculty associate in Computational Social Science at the California […]

Exploring a complex political and social identity

When she started studying law, Alaa Hajyahia [2022] saw it as a potential instrument for justice, but as she continued the schism between what it says and the political and social context in which it operates brought more questions than answers. Being one of just a handful of Palestinian students at Tel Aviv University’s (TAU) […]