The Sidney prize was established to recognise the best student in a particular subject at the University of Sydney. The prize is awarded annually to a student who achieves the highest overall average mark in their third or fourth year of study at the University of Sydney. This prize is awarded on the recommendation of the Head of the Department of Philosophy, or their nominated delegate.
Founded in 2012, this scholarship was established by Alan W.M. Mills with the object of encouraging philosophical discussion of the concept of Time. The prize is to be awarded annually, on the recommendation of the Chair and Undergraduate and Postgraduate Coordinators of the Department of Philosophy, to an undergraduate student who presents a piece of work in the field of Time that is considered by them to be of sufficient merit.
An important feature of the award is that it encourages the development of research skills in a specific area. This may involve undertaking a project under the supervision of a member of staff in the School of Philosophy or another faculty department or unit. The committee will also consider whether the research has been facilitated by the use of electronic information technology.
For this reason the award is open to students from any course or discipline at the University of Sydney, with preference being given to those who are enrolled in a research degree. The prize is awarded on the basis of a student’s ability to show a thorough understanding and application of their topic, and to their capacity to communicate effectively in written form.
One of Sidney’s most notable accomplishments was his belief in the importance of integrating the humanities and social sciences into a science curriculum. He was particularly concerned with helping students develop a deeper appreciation of these disciplines.
He worked on ribonuclease-P, a key enzyme that catalyses the formation of DNA from RNA molecules, and won a Nobel Prize for his work. Altman’s discovery of the catalytic properties of ribonuclease-P changed the way that scientists thought about RNA. It challenged the conventional view that a molecule could either carry information, like RNA, or catalyze chemical reactions, like proteins, but not both.
After he received his bachelor’s degree, Sidney went to graduate school in physics at Columbia University. But he was drawn to the young field of molecular biology and decided to change his major. He took an introductory course and was instantly captivated by the new field.
Later, at Hamilton College, he devoted himself to teaching and mentoring students in the sciences and the humanities. He was a devout believer in the value of science, and believed that all students should be provided with the opportunity to pursue excellence in their chosen fields while at the same time developing a broad understanding of the various disciplines within the sciences.
As a result of this approach, many students who started at Yale as science majors emerged from the institution with a deep appreciation for the arts and social sciences. This has since been replicated at other institutions, including the University of Oxford and Harvard.