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Module titlePlants
Module codeBIO1338
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Professor John Love (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module aims to introduce you to the important concepts, techniques and applications of modern plant science, and to explore the impact of plants on the biosphere, agriculture and society.

In order to take BIO1338 you should normally have an A Level (or equivalent) in Biology.

Module aims - intentions of the module

As primary producers, plants are fundamental to life on Earth. Stage 1 “Plants” aims to provide you with a fundamental understanding of important topics in plant science including the evolution of plant cells, the basic morphology of different plant groups, the physical constraints that influence the diversity of plant forms, the environmental and endogenous regulators of plant growth and plant reproduction. The importance of light, CO2 and water for plant life, evolution and morphology will be explored against the background of environmental change. Light sensing, photosynthesis, and the strategies that plants employ to maximise carbon capture and water use efficiency will be explored. Using pertinent case-studies and research, we will investigate the molecular and physiological basis for human exploitation of the plant world through agriculture, plant breeding, GM technology and Synthetic Biology. Learning will be through a combination of asynchronous, online materials (e.g. videos, assigned readings, lecture notes etc.) and webinar-style lectures and discussion groups.  You will be introduced to practical techniques in plant biology through the use of e-Learning resources and bespoke videos, and you will perform data analysis relevant to each technique to expand and integrate your theoretical knowledge and further your awareness of the scientific method. Where possible, practical discussion groups will be available enabling you to take part in self-directed or/and guided discussion of results to increase your understanding of the topics under investigation. You are expected to supplement knowledge gained from lectures by self-directed reading from textbooks and literature appropriate to the level (e.g. reviews and selected primary sources).

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe the basic biology of different plant groups and of the plant cell
  • 2. Understand the biophysical constraints to plant evolution and their effects on plant structure, physiology and growth
  • 3. Discuss photosynthesis and water-relations in lower and in higher plant groups
  • 4. Explain plant reproductive strategies, including the alternation of generations and pollination syndromes
  • 5. Describe how plants sense and transduce environmental and endogenous stimuli to optimise growth
  • 6. Outline the different ways in which humans exploit the plant world

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Explain plant science, including essential facts and theory in molecular biology, cell biology and physiology
  • 8. Describe and begin to evaluate aspects of current research and applications in plant science with reference to textbooks, guided observation and learning activities
  • 9. Discuss core practical skills that are commonly used in plant science research, and appreciate the theoretical basis of the techniques learned and the context in which they are applied

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Integrate and communicate scientific ideas effectively by written, oral and visual means
  • 11. With some guidance, study autonomously and undertake data analysis relating to plant science
  • 12. With direction, select and properly manage information drawn from textbooks, practical techniques and the internet
  • 13. Interact effectively in a group to perform specified tasks

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The syllabus will include lectures and online learning resources that address the following topics:

  • Plant evolution – physical constraints and selective pressures – interaction with other organisms.
  • Plant cell structures and continuous embryogenesis – vacuole; cell wall; chloroplasts; meristems
  • Diversity of plant structures from a basic pattern – root/shoot polarity and vascular plant cell types.
  • Plant anatomy and branching.
  • Light – photoreceptors, the chloroplast and photosynthesis (C3, C4 and Crassulacean Acid Metabolism).
  • Plant metabolism and secondary products.
  • Water relations.
  • Plant growth regulators (with practical class)
  • Alternation of generations and reproductive strategies, including pollination syndromes.
  • Forward and reverse genetics.
  • Domestication, Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL), plant breeding and agriculture.
  • Genetic modification (GM) and Plant Synthetic Biology.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching27Laboratory practicals and group discussion (9 x 3 hours)
Guided Independent Study30Practical data handling and writing-up
Guided Independent Study41Lecture consolidation and reading
Guided Independent Study30Revision


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Practical class notebook and data handling exercises1 lab notebook6-12Oral in Virtual meetings
Mid-term module examination (MCQ)1 hour1-8, 12Oral in Virtual session and written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Practical class booklet and data handling exercises20Continuous assessment1-2, 5, 8-13Oral and written
Centrally timetabled examination (MCQ)801 hour1-8, 12Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Practical class booklet and data handling exercisePractical class booklet and data handling exercise1-2, 5, 8-13August Referral/Deferral
Centrally timetabled examinationEssay examination (1 hour; one of three questions)1-8, 10, 12August Referral/Deferral

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Recommended Textbook, available as an e-book:

  • Making Eden: How Plants Transformed a Barren Planet by Beerling, David (ISBN: 9780198798309)

Alternative reading resources:

  • Hodson & Bryant (2012) Functional Plant Biology  (Wiley-Blackwell).
  • Campbell NA, Reece JB (2008) Biology, 8th Ed. Pearson. ISBN 0-321-53616-7/0-321-53616-9

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ELE page:

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Plant, photosynthesis, morphogenesis, signalling, evolution, diversity, agriculture, food, biotechnology, synthetic biology

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date