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Frontiers in Plant Biology

Module titleFrontiers in Plant Biology
Module codeBIO3046
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Vinod Kumar (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This is an advanced level module to reinforce your understanding and appreciation of concepts at the frontier of plant and algal biology. Current global environmental change severely impacts photosynthetic organisms on land and in the oceans and threatens both biodiversity and food security. Understanding the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms and strategies that underpin adaptation to the environment is therefore at the forefront of plant biology. This module will highlight the advances and opportunities through greater understanding of plant-environment interactions, including cross-kingdom encounters (eg host-pathogen interactions). The module aims to build a comprehensive understanding of the trends in plant science research and will also examine how scientific advances can help fight the threats to biodiversity and food security. In addition to the interactive lectures and group discussions, you will deliver a presentation developing your oral communication skills.

To take this module, you must have completed BIO2099 Molecular Plant Science or an equivalent providing sufficient background knowledge in plant biology. This is an optional module for final year students on BSc Biological Sciences and BSc Biochemistry, and also for students on Flexible Combined Honours in Biological Sciences: Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to build on your understanding of plant biology, exploring the frontiers of plant and algal biology in relation to the challenges plants face through environmental change, host-pathogen interactions and the impact this has on biodiversity and food security. Focussing on the emerging scientific literature on photosynthetic organisms on land and in the oceans, this module will introduce you to the evolving paradigms in plant biology with a broader outlook on the implications and their potential in dealing with the major challenges that humanity faces.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Understand the genetically encoded mechanisms defining plant shape and form
  • 2. Have an overarching understanding of plant life in the environment
  • 3. Understand and appreciate Epigenetics and its implications in modern biology
  • 4. Understanding the strategies and mechanisms of plant adaptations to biotic and abiotic environments
  • 5. Have a deeper understanding of the impact of climate change on plant life and its implications
  • 6. Have a comprehensive understanding of the biology and significance of algae

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 7. Critically evaluate and appreciate the significance of emerging primary literature
  • 8. Understand and apply major concepts ion biology
  • 9. Independently analyse primary research literature and synthesise fundamental principles

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 10. Form own opinions about emerging research and effectively communicate and discuss your ideas in a group
  • 11. Develop the ability to critically evaluate scientific literature and present the same orally and in writing.
  • 12. Independently evaluate and interpret novel research data.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Theme 1:Plants in the environment: Explore plant life in the context of their environment. Understanding how plants respond and adapt to their biotic (pathogens) and abiotic environments.  Gain an in-depth understanding of the mechanisms and strategies that underpin environmental adaptation, including environmental signal integration,  phenotypic plasticity and epigenetics.

Theme 2: Plant life in a changing climate: Explore how global environmental change impact plant life in the field and the wild and understand its consequences.

Theme 3: Plant biology in the post-genomics era: Explore how developments in genomics technologies enable biologists to answer age-old fundamental questions and to help face major global challenges.

Theme 4: Plants for future: Explore strategies and tools for developing plants for the future - to ensure food security and for conserving biodiversity

Theme 5: Green life in the oceans: Explore the emerging themes in algal biology to understanding the ecological and evolutionary significance of algae in marine ecosystems. 

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 Teaching 22Lectures
Guided Independent Study78Lecture consolidation, associated reading and online resources
Guided Independent Study50Coursework and exam revision


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Interactive Q&A during classes 5 mins1-12Oral in lecture

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 examination602x 1000 words1-9, 11, 12 Written
Oral presentation 4020 min presentations 1-12 Oral feedback, Feedback sheet


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%)1-9, 11, 12August Ref/Def
Oral presentation Narrated PowerPoint (40%)1-12 August 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 basic text books cover the diverse and contemporary nature of the lecture material. Lecturers will provide specific reading lists or pdfs uploaded to ELE as appropriate.

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Plant-environment interaction, phenotypic plasticity, epigenetics, environmental signalling, plant-pathogen interactions, plant immunity, climate change, food security, crop improvement, Algal biology, phytoplankton, genomics

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIO2099 Molecular Plant Science or an equivalent providing sufficient background knowledge in plant biology

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date