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BIO3052 : Global challenges in plant science research

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Anne Borland
  • Lecturer: Professor William Willats, Dr Maxim Kapralov, Professor Neil Boonham, Dr Tahar Taybi, Dr Catherine Tétard-Jones, Dr Vasilios Andriotis
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


Plants serve as the conduit of energy into the biosphere, provide food and materials used by humans, and they shape our environment. This module aims to show how plant science research underpins and is helping to tackle current global challenges of food security, renewable energy, conservation of resources and climate change. The module considers; i) fundamental aspects of plant science which encompass photosynthetic physiology and biochemistry, seed development, cell wall biochemistry and plant-pathogen interactions and ii) explores how new technologies can exploit and manipulate these fundamental aspects of plant science in order to improve the productivity, health and quality of plants and plant-derived products in a changing climate. The module’s teaching is research-led, using up-to-date scientific literature and interactive teaching sessions. Students will read research papers and learn how to critically analyse them to facilitate learning.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module content will include:
• The importance of photosynthesis and implications for food and energy security
• RuBisCO structure and function
• Evolution of carbon concentrating mechanisms and alternative modes of photosynthesis
• Engineering photosynthesis to enhance plant productivity in a changing climate
• Seed development and maternal plant-seed communication
• Exploiting and manipulating seed development
• Nature of plant diseases, pathogen discovery and emerging diseases
• Plant disease resistance: mechanisms and applications
• Integrated pest management and biocontrol
• International biosecurity and plant health
• Global plant disease case studies
• Plant cell wall diversity: applications for bioengineering and bioprospecting
• Below ground plant/microbe interactions
• Group poster presentations/mini conference to consider how new technologies and developments in a particular aspect of plant science research can tackle ‘real-world’ challenges

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture251:0025:00Lectures delivered in person
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion55:0025:00Revision of lecture material in preparation for final alternative assessment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion12:002:00Home exam/assessment, to be submitted via Turnitin
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading21:002:00Online via Canvas - reading materials related to preparation for the group course work
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading162:0032:00Canvas - lecturers will give students relevant reading for module topics throughout the semester
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity42:008:00Meet in assigned groups to discuss poster topic, plan poster design and produce poster
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study401:0040:00Lecture follow up
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study302:0060:00Study of lectures, RECAP, Canvas materials etc.
Guided Independent StudyOnline Discussion61:006:00on-line discussion and set up discussion points to aid revision for final assessment
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures delivered face to face will explain key concepts and outline illustrative examples using short video and audio recordings plus powerpoint slides. Recorded lectures will be made available to students via ReCAP. Students will be able to gauge their understanding of the lecture materials by completing quizzes (formative assessment) on CANVAS. Each lecturer will also engage in on-line discussion fora to answer questions or set up discussion points to help students prepare for final assessment. Private study will augment the framework given by lectures and engender depth of understanding through extensive reading of directed literature citations from journals and textbooks with a high scientific impact. Coursework is directed towards preparing for the final assessment and critically synthesising information in a concise manner, encouraging teamwork, and developing poster design and presentation skills.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Poster2M20Students work in groups of 4-5 assigned by module leader, chose own relevant topic for poster and present at mini conference.
Written exercise2M80Home exam/assessment, to be submitted via Turnitin
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The at-home assessment will consist of 2 essays, each worth 50 % of assessment mark and each section presenting 3 essay type questions that will cover all topics presented in the lectures. Students will tackle one question from each section and the essay-type format of answers will allow students to demonstrate their understanding and critical synthesis of the concepts outlined by the lectures, enhanced by the depth resulting from additional reading of the scientific literature that is recommended throughout the course. The group poster exercise poster (counting towards 20% of final module mark) will enable interpretation and critical analysis of relevant scientific literature, will focus attention on selected key topics covered in the module and help to prepare students for the final at-home assessment. The ability to work effectively in teams and communication skills will be assessed via the poster as well as by peer review.

Reading Lists