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2021/22 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

BLGY3255 Plant Development: Making a plant in theory and practice

20 creditsClass Size: 60

Module manager: Brendan Davies

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

Module replaces

BLGY3205: Applied Plant Science; BLGY3252: Plant Developmental Biology.

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module is Plant Science for the post-genomic age. It allocates equal resources to learning about the genetic and physical networks that underpin how plants work and the more practical application of that fundamental knowledge. For the theoretical framework, we assume no previous study of plant anatomy or development. The module begins with an introduction to the most successful experimental strategies in plant science. Concentrating on Arabidopsis, the world's favourite model plant, we will attempt to illustrate how just 20000 genes can specify the size, shape and vital functions of an organism that lives on sunlight, adjusts its development to fit the local conditions and sustains life on earth. The framework for this aspect of the course will be based on mechanisms. The different mechanisms will be illustrated by experimental evidence, mainly looking at the consequence of mutating key genes involved in a few developmental processes.However, a key feature of this module is that a large part of it is practical. When are genes expressed? What tissues are genes expressed in? How do we begin to determine the answers to these two questions? Using tissue culture, we will sow plants that harbour transgenic DNA constructs that allow us to visualise when and where individual genes are expressed. We will look at a range of genes to determine their in planta expression profiles.


By the end of this module students should appreciate the appropriate experimental approaches to understand modern plant science. Students completing this course will see how the combination of molecular techniques with classical genetics has produced advances that would have been impossible without these approaches.

The module has a balance of theoretical and practical content, well suited to training UGs in the scientific method, where knowledge drives experimental design, which produces new knowledge.

Learning outcomes
On completion of the module students should;
1. Understand and demonstrate coherent and detailed subject knowledge informed by recent research/scholarship in biology;
2. Demonstrate a conceptual understanding which enables the development and sustaining of an argument;
3. Describe and comment on particular aspects of recent research;
4. Appreciate the uncertainty, ambiguity and limitations of knowledge in plant science;
5. Make appropriate use of scholarly reviews and primary sources;
6. Have gained practical experience of working in a laboratory;
7. Experience working with plant material and techniques described in the lectures.
8. Understand how to interpret experimental observations and set them into a theoretical framework.
9. Be capable of writing up the outcome of an experimental investigation whilst adhering to the required formal style of scientific communications.

Skills outcomes
The practical element of the module brings specific skills to the module. Students experience tissue culture that teaches aseptic technique, proficiency in aspects of molecular biology are gained and critical observational acuity is also essential in the practical teaching of the module.


Introduction to the lecture component of the module.
- How the module works, how to do well. Evolution of plants – Darwin’s abominable mystery, how to ask and answer questions about plants (1 lecture), ovules as a case study (1 lecture).
- How is fate determined in plants – lineage or position?
- How do cells know the appropriate genes to activate/repress to make a plant, what is the positional signal, how does this influence gene expression (2 lectures)?
- How do plants take life decisions?
- Flowering as a case study, initiation of flowering (1 lecture), day length, integration of extrinsic and intrinsic parameters (1 lecture), how do you make a flower (1 lecture), fruit development shows the utility of understanding development (1 lecture). Leaves (1 lecture).
- Introduction to the practical component of the module.
- Working in a laboratory, using reporters to study gene expression.
- Where, when and how are genes expressed?

Using tissue culture techniques, we will sow plants that harbour transgenic DNA constructs that allow us to visualise when and where individual genes are expressed. We will sow plants on plant tissue culture agar in aseptic conditions. Prior to observation and analysis of the reporter lines we will utilise PCR methods to determine the transgenic status of the plants. We will look at a range of genes to determine their in planta expression profiles.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours183.00
Total Contact hours17.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

The lectures provide a framework for private study. The lectures will introduce the students to the most advanced ideas and concepts in the areas of plant science that are covered by the syllabus. The subjects will be presented from an experimental perspective, not only asking how things work, but how we can set up the appropriate experimental approaches to determine how things work. This will be reinforced in the practical component of the module. The students will be expected to use part of their private study time to search and read the literature around those topics. Part of their private study time will also be required to research and revise for both assessments. The students will have to integrate knowledge gained from the lecture part of the course, with their own literature-based research, in order to interpret their findings in the practical part of the course. They will also need private study time to write up the practical part.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Formative feedback to individual students in the series of practical classes.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Practical Report1,000 word report50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)50.00

Alternative work will be required for resits.

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment24 hr 50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

There is no reading list for this module

Last updated: 06/10/2021 10:45:05


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