Home » Centre College grad earns prestigious scholarship founded by Bill and Melinda Gates

Centre College grad earns prestigious scholarship founded by Bill and Melinda Gates

Will begin PhD in Zoology in fall at Cambridge University in England

DANVILLE, Ky. (Feb. 11, 2016) — Centre College graduate Benjamin T. Cocanougher has been awarded one of the world’s most competitive postgraduate fellowships, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship. Established by Bill and Melinda Gates in 2000 with a $210 million endowment, the prestige of the Gates award is already on par with the more established Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.

Benjamin T. Cocanougher
Benjamin T. Cocanougher

Described in the announcement as one of “the world’s most brilliant future leaders,” Cocanougher will begin work in fall 2016 on a Ph.D. in zoology at Cambridge University in England. Founded in 1209, Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world (after Oxford) and the fourth oldest surviving university in the world.

Provost Barry Everitt of the Gates Cambridge Trust described this year’s 35 U.S. recipients as “a highly accomplished and diverse group who have already achieved much in terms of their academic studies, leadership abilities and commitment to improving the lives of others.”

Approximately 90 highly competitive scholarships are granted annually. Some 1,500 Gates alumni are spread across the world since the award’s inception, representing 103 countries and 600 colleges or universities.

“We are extremely proud of Ben’s accomplishment and he joins an impressive list of graduates going on to earn exceptional postgraduate fellowships, blazing a trail as the College’s first-ever Gates Cambridge recipient.” said Centre President John A. Roush.

Cocanougher is also completing a research fellowship at the Janelia Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where he is engaged on a project titled “Establishment of selective connections in the Drosophila nerve cord” under the direction of Dr. Marta Zlatic. The study involves investigating the principles by which neurons connect to form circuits during embryonic development.

Cocanougher plans to continue this line of research with Zlatic, who is returning to Cambridge, by studying how memories are stored in a whole brain and how this process goes awry in disease.

“By understanding the mechanisms of memory storage I hope that it may be possible to investigate the changes in memory formation in disease and develop rational therapies for memory formation disorders, including autism and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Cocanougher.

Among his many honors at Centre, Cocanougher received the Max P. Cavnes Prize, awarded to the best-loved and most-respected senior man and woman; the Ormand Beatty Prize, awarded to a senior with a distinguished record; and a Fine Arts Scholarship.

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