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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

Scholar wins NASA Fellowship

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has won a prestigious NASA Fellowship to continue his studies on exoplanets. Luis Welbanks has been awarded a NASA Hubble Fellowship and will begin his programme in the autumn at Arizona State University. The Fellowship programme “enables outstanding postdoctoral scientists to pursue independent research in any area of NASA Astrophysics, using […]

Covid safety for healthcare workers in resource-poor contexts

How can healthcare workers in low- and middle-income countries protect themselves from Covid-19 contamination if resources to fund PPE are limited? A new study, led by Gates Cambridge Scholar Dylan Griswold, shows which PPE is the most protective for those working in emergency trauma surgery and how it can safely be reused. The report reviewed […]

Passages to India

Meena Venkataramanan’s undergraduate thesis at Harvard combines her passion for journalism with her interest in exploring her own identity as an Asian American. The thesis is a series of personal essays which she calls “metaphorical passages to India”. Meena’s parents are from India and Meena was born in the UK before moving to the US […]

Gates Cambridge Scholars to speak at inaugural Cambridge Festival

Several Gates Cambridge Scholars will be taking part in the inaugural Cambridge Festival which starts on Friday. The online Festival, which runs from 26th March to 4th April, brings together the Cambridge Science Festival and the Festival of Ideas to host an extensive programme of over 350 events that tackle many critical global challenges affecting us […]

Gender under the microscope

Since she returned to Hong Kong after completing her PhD in Psychology at Cambridge, Wang Ivy Wong [2009] has been promoted to the role of Associate Professor at the Gender Studies Programme and Department of Psychology of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has her own gender development laboratory and collaborates on research with international […]

Net zero climate targets cover more than half of Americans

More than half of Americans [53%] live in a jurisdiction with a net zero target, according to new research which says subnational commitments represent an opportunity for the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress to increase federal action on climate change. The research is co-authored by Gates Cambridge Scholar Stephen Lezak, who is currently Programme Manager on […]

Investigating the science of waking up

Do you wake up feeling refreshed and full of energy? That’s the traditional depiction of a good night’s sleep, but for many it is not the case. In the first minutes or hours after waking up, they feel groggy and lethargic. This grogginess is called “sleep inertia” and a new study, led by a Gates […]

Putting students at the centre of enterprise

When Noah Isserman was born his late father, an urban planning professor, wrote a paper in which he said: “We must be concerned with what is humanly possible, not just politically and economically possible.” Years later Noah included the quote in his PhD dissertation at Cambridge. An ambition to make a difference is at the […]

Undoing the erasure of Black women’s lives

Anna Malaika Tubbs always wanted to be a public intellectual – to speak up for Black women whose lives have been erased from public view and to talk to the general public about gender, race, sociology and anthropology in ways that are accessible. Having been a student activist and having taught black feminist theory to […]

Review highlights advances in study of early human development

Pluripotent stem cells-based models serve as an excellent tool to study early human development, given that legislation forbids using human embryos to do so, according to a review. The review, published in the journal Developmental Biology, is co-authored by Gates Cambridge Scholar Veronika Mantziou [2019], who is doing a PhD in Developmental Biology. The study, […]