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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

On the ground responses to climate change extremes

In the early 2000s when climate change was just emerging as a global issue, Carmen Lacambra Segura was working at the Marine and Coastal Research Institute [INVEMAR] in Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. The institute received visiting experts from around the “developed” world who would talk about how to deal with climate […]

Harnessing the power of routine clinical care

Since he left Cambridge University in 2008, Shane Woods has replayed in his mind a particular speech by former Gates Cambridge Provost Gordon Johnson. It was about leadership and the importance of taking your experience back to your country on graduation and making a contribution.  Shane [2004] had long been looking for a role which […]

Confronting gender norms

Amelia Amemate [2020] has spent much of her life striving to challenge gender norms. Like many women in Ghana and elsewhere, she was expected to get married and focus on the home; at university, she faced sexism and hostility when she campaigned for women’s rights; and in the workplace, she was told her Afro hair […]

Study offers hope for future glaucoma treatment

Gene therapy has been used to regenerate damaged nerve fibres in the eye, in a discovery that could aid the development of new treatments for glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide. Gates Cambridge Scholar Dr Veselina Petrova [2015] is first author of Protrudin functions from the endoplasmic reticulum to support axon regeneration […]

Local approaches to global climate change issues

Aditi Mukherji’s PhD on groundwater access marked the beginning of a distinguished career which has seen her win an international prize for her work on eliminating global hunger and poverty, change water policy in West Bengal and be appointed as an author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s forthcoming report for global policymakers.    Aditi’s […]

Gates Cambridge Year of Engagement kicks off

Gates Cambridge Scholars will kick off a Year of Engagement this weekend to mark the importance of giving back to the community. Engagement has always been a big feature of the Gates Cambridge community and the Day of Engagement has long been one of the flagship activities of the Scholar community.  This year, for Gates […]

Public engagement through children’s stories

An award-winning science communicator and tv presenter who honed his communication skills as a Gates Cambridge Scholar is launching a colourful children’s book about gravity. Dr Niraj Lal’s new children’s book, Henry the Flying Emu, is being launched by well-known science journalist broadcaster Robyn Williams AO, host of the ABC Science Show. The book tells the story […]

Affecting change for the Māori community

Self-determination lies at the centre of Māori culture. “It’s a way of life,” says Chris Tooley. That idea is also at the heart of his PhD studies at Cambridge and his subsequent work in Parliament and in the community. Chris grew up with a strong sense of being part of the Māori community. He has ancestral […]

On the COVID frontline

Three Gates Cambridge scholars who have been on the medical frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic will be speaking about their experiences at a virtual event next weekend. The event, organised by the Gates Cambridge Alumni Association, will be moderated by Elizabeth Dzeng, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco in the […]