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Molecular Plant Science

Module titleMolecular Plant Science
Module codeBIO2099
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Mike Deeks (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Plants form the basis for all terrestrial landscapes and ecosystems. Plants impact climate, global food security and provide renewable energy resources; consequently plant biology is at the forefront of 21st century efforts to understand and engineer a more stable and equitable society. In this module you will learn current methods in plant science and the skills needed to plan your own investigations into molecular mechanisms. You will understand how plants interact with other organisms and mount elaborate defences to protect themselves from a constantly evolving array of pathogens. Finally, you will explore how plant science underpins world agriculture, the biological basis of beneficial agricultural traits and how we can breed future-proof crop varieties including modern fast track methods and genetic modification (GM). Advanced understanding in these areas will be promoted by integrated practical sessions.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module introduces you to advanced concepts in plant biology with dual emphasis on understanding (i) at the molecular, physiological, and subcellular levels, how plants develop and respond to their environment and (ii) how human activity has affected plant and crop diversity, as well as the outcomes for society and global ecosystems. Moreover, this module teaches you how to plan and undertake research to discover the molecular mechanisms driving the powerful impacts of plants upon our planet.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Plan investigations to analyse the function of genes and proteins in laboratory model species (such as Arabidopsis thaliana) and crops (such as wheat).
  • 2. Explain the motivation and methods for understanding plant development and environmental responses at the organ, tissue and sub-cellular scales.
  • 3. Explain using examples how plants defend themselves against insects and microbes.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Describe and evaluate approaches to our understanding of plant biology with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles.
  • 5. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work.
  • 6. With some guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation and enquiry within the biosciences.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 7. Communicate ideas, principles and theories fluently by written, visual and oral means in a manner appropriate to the intended audience.
  • 8. Develop, with some guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with valid conclusions.
  • 9. Interpret data, drawing on a range of sources, with limited guidance.
  • 10. Work in a small team and deal proficiently with the issues that teamwork requires (i.e. communication, motivation, decision-making, awareness, responsibility, and management skills, including setting and working to deadlines).

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Theme 1: The role of plants in the earth’s climate, photosynthesis and resource acquisition.


Theme 2: The application of model plants to understanding fundamental plant processes; plant signalling mechanisms and the use of genomics and imaging to understand plant responses.


Theme 3: Plants interacting with other organisms, including bacteria, fungi and insects.


Theme 4: Plants as food producing systems; major crops;  concepts in plant breeding; genetic modification of plants; food production.


Accessibility Statement:

As part of this module you will undertake laboratory sessions (either in GP101 or GP108) with approximately 50 other students that are of 3 hrs in duration. These sessions will be undertaken in pairs, and some sessions involve fine laboratory work and Bunsen burner flames. Breaks are possible and students are able to leave the laboratory for short periods. Also, you will undertake group work to produce and present a poster as a summative assessment. The presentation will involve the whole group (typically 4 students) explaining their poster and chatting in a relaxed atmosphere with up to three academics (simulating a ‘real’ conference). This will last about 45 minutes in total (15 minutes per academic) for each group.

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 teaching3Journal clubs
Scheduled learning and teaching15Laboratory practicals and poster conference (5 x 3 hours)
Guided independent study20Poster presentation
Guided independent study9Journal club reading and preparation
Guided independent study51Lecture consolidation and associated reading
Guided independent study30Revision


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Question and answer sessions within lectures10 minutes per lecture1-4Oral in lecture
MCQ revision test30 minutes1-3, 6Online

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
Essay-based examination601000 words2-9Written
Group poster and presentation of poster40A0 poster and 45 minute conference.1, 4, 7-10Written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay-based examinationEssay-based examination (60%)2-9August Ref/Def
Group poster and presentation of posterIndividual poster and presentation of poster (40%)1, 4, 7-10August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons that are approved by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. If deferred, the format and timing of the re-assessment for each of the summative assessments is detailed in the table above ('Details of re-assessment'). The mark given for a deferred assessment 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 (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) and the module cannot be condoned, you will be required to complete a re-assessment for each of the failed components on the module. The format and timing of the re-assessment for each of the summative assessments is detailed in the table above ('Details of re-assessment'). If you pass the module following re-assessment, your module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • No textbook covers the diverse and contemporary nature of the lecture material but “Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Plants” by Buchanan et al. is a good companion text and available as an ebook from the library.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Molecular biology, genomics, hypothesis testing, gene editing, live-cell imaging, multicellular development, agriculture, photosynthesis, crops, resource acquisition, food security, genetic modification, plant breeding, plant-microbe interactions, plant physiology, plant pathogens

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIO1334 Genetics OR BIO1338 Plants OR BIO1339 Cells

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date