Sidney prize is a series of annual awards given to students and staff at the University of Sydney who have made a difference in their area of study. This includes awards for academic excellence, student leadership and community engagement. There are also prizes for promoting peace with justice, human rights and non-violence.
The Sidney prize was established by the University in 2022 to honour the memory of a former faculty member and teacher, Professor Sidney Thomas. Mr Thomas was a long-standing member of the department and a champion of humanistic scholarship. He edited two benchmark publications in art history, The Nature of Art and Images of Man.
He was a strong advocate for the value of science and he insisted that all students should have the opportunity to learn from different disciplines within their chosen field of study.
A renowned teacher and mentor, Sid was known for his warm, engaging style of teaching, his belief in the importance of research and for helping to foster an atmosphere in the laboratory that allowed students to grow.
His dedication to the advancement of the sciences was clear in the work he did with undergraduates at the University. He was especially fond of his ‘lab buddies’, young men and women who had the courage to challenge established beliefs.
For many years, he was a devoted mentor to his own research team and to aspiring scientists of all ages who were eager to take the next step in their careers. His willingness to engage in difficult scientific debates helped him win the respect of his peers and colleagues.
One of his early discoveries was that RNA (ribonucleic acid) in living cells is not only a molecule of heredity but also a biocatalyst. This discovery changed the way that we view the role of RNA in the biology of life.
He and his collaborator, Tom Cech, worked together in a highly collaborative fashion to unravel the complex biochemistry of RNA catalysis. This work was not an easy undertaking and Sid had to fight to convince others that his discovery was not fortuitous or the result of a coincidence.
During this time, Sid learned to temper his boldness with caution and to listen carefully to those who doubted his results. He was also grateful for the support of family and friends who supported him through this challenging period.
As a result, his team’s discovery of the biochemical basis for RNA catalysis was not only a breakthrough in the field but also a watershed in the way that science is taught.
The discovery of RNA catalysis led to significant changes in the way that science is taught at the high school level and on college campuses throughout the United States. It opened up new vistas of research and allowed for the development of a new generation of science teachers who remained committed to teaching the principles of scientific discovery in their classrooms.
Sid’s achievements are still influencing science and he is still a beloved figure in the scientific community. He has received numerous awards and recognitions for his research including a Nobel Prize in Chemistry and the Sidney medal, which is awarded annually to a scientific leader who has made significant contributions to science.