Cole Townsend of Ada, a University of Oklahoma student majoring in biochemistry, is the recipient of the 2016 Carl Albert Award, presented each year to the outstanding senior in the OU College of Arts and Sciences.
Townsend will be presented with the Carl Albert Award at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, at a ceremony in Beaird Lounge of Oklahoma Memorial Union, 900 Asp Ave.
He will graduate summa cum laude with a 4.0 grade-point average during OU’s Commencement ceremonies on May 13. Upon graduation, Townsend plans to attend graduate school at the University of Gottingen in Germany to earn his master in science in molecular biology and later Columbia University to obtain a Ph.D. in biochemistry. He ultimately plans to begin a career in biochemistry to discover some of the most pressing problems in neuroscience as it relates to mental illness and neurodegenerative diseases such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and depression.
Townsend has received numerous scholarships, honors and awards during his college career, including the Chris T. Memorial Undergraduate Research Fellowship, Savoie Lottinville Prize and the P.A.C.E. Award, which recognizes the top one percent of freshman students. He was selected to spend five weeks in Scotland through the Fulbright Summer Institute. He was named to PE-ET Top Ten Senior Honor Society, OU Homecoming Royalty and Big Man on Campus. During his sophomore year, he was selected to serve as one of two Student Advisors to President's Community Scholars. He has served over the past two years on the Executive Committee of The Honors Undergraduate Research Journal as assistant editor and editor-in-chief. Townsend has received the President's Award for Outstanding Freshmen, the President's Award for Outstanding Sophomores, the Regents' Award for Outstanding Juniors and the Outstanding Senior Man Award.
Townsend has volunteered his time and talents to various community organizations, including Loveworks, Oklahoma Teaching Alliance, the Down Syndrome Association of Central Oklahoma, Habitat for Humanity and Global Medical Brigades. He has spent many hours helping tornado relief efforts for those impacted in May 2013 and helping raise funds for those impacted by the 2012 wildfires in Oklahoma.
In his Carl Albert Award essay, Townsend said as a summer research scholar at the Stephenson Cancer Center he realized he wanted “to spend the rest of his life pursuing a career in science that would not only lead to personal fulfillment but also to benefits for all humankind.” He represented OU at Oklahoma’s Research Day at the Capitol and last summer at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. With his fascination of science and literature, Townsend plans to continue his “love of learning, empathy for others, and a career that will tackle perhaps the world’s most pressing issue – the brain.”
The Carl Albert Award, the most prestigious given to a student by the OU College of Arts and Sciences, is based on academics, moral force of character, and promise of future service to the state and nation. First presented in 1966, the award was established to honor Carl Albert, the late OU alumnus and U.S. Speaker of the House, for his distinguished undergraduate career and national service. Julian Rothbaum, former state regent and longtime friend of Albert, endowed the award in 1965.