Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module BIOL40315: Frontiers in Plant Science

Department: Biosciences

BIOL40315: Frontiers in Plant Science

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Not available in 2020/21
Tied to C2K009


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide students with a broad understanding of plant development.
  • To provide students with the theoretical knowledge behind the major Agriculture and Biotechnological advances of our society.
  • To provide awareness of the current and future agricultural and biotechnological challenges.
  • To provide students a clear view of the technical, legal and ethical limitations associated to improvement of agricultural and biotechnological processes.


  • Fundaments of plant development regulation
  • Mechanism regulating plant adaptation to environment
  • Plant nutrition
  • Plant-pathogen interaction
  • Breeding strategies and their use for the improvement of agricultural traits
  • Use of plants as bio-factories

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Deep understanding of the mechanism regulating plant developmental processes.
  • Understanding of strategies for the translation of fundamental science for the improvement of agriculture and biotechnology.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to think critically within the context of agriculture and biotechnology.
  • To interpret and analyse the main breakthrough discoveries for agriculture and biotechnology improvement.
  • Ability to design strategies for the solving of future agricultural and biotechnological challenges.
  • Ability to think independently and address questions in the context of agriculture and biotechnology.
  • To evaluate the current and future challenges of our society in the context of agriculture and biotechnology.
Key Skills:
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Data interpretation and analysis
  • Group work
  • Hypothesis building
  • Address questions

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Weekly lectures over Michaelmas term will be delivered. Students will attend to four workshops and four research seminars with focus in agriculture and biotechnology and participate in a discussion forum with the speaker. Four workshops will be organized where students will perform group activities in a dynamic format. Four mentor led group surgeries are planned, student self-organized group activities in coordination with mentor interactions.
  • The lecture material aims to provide a deep knowledge of plant development regulation and how its understanding leads to the generation of new plant varieties with interest for agriculture and the generation of new biotechnological produces. The lecture material covers key developmental processes and examples of their use for the improvement of agricultural and biotechnological processes, including processes such as gametophyte development, plant fertilisation, novel breeding strategies, seed improvement, plant-soil interactions, plant pathogen interactions, nutrient assimilation, regulation of plant plasticity, improvement of biomass quantity and quality, optimisation of flowering time and improvement of fruit traits. Workshops activities are aligned with the seminar series and will cover the use of relevant and novel approaches for the improvement of agricultural traits.
  • Lectures, seminars and workshops focusing on the most relevant agricultural and biotechnological processes. Plants as source of nutrients, polymers, bio-reactors. Crop improvement (production and stress tolerance).
  • Group workshops to elaborate critical thinking and develop communication, data management and problem-solving skills.
  • To assess the student understanding of plant development and its use for the improvement of agriculture and the generation of products with biotechnological value, the students will need to undertake a written exam by the end of the module consisting in two questions of their own choice (out of 4) and a summative exercise where they elaborate their own strategy for the improvement of a specific plant trait.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 8 Weekly 2 hours 15
Seminars 4 Monthly 2 hours 8
Workshops 4 Bi-weekly 4 hours 16
Mentor/group surgeries 14 Bi-weekly 1 hour 14
Preparation and reading 96
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written test [2 questions] 3 hours 70%
Summative essay 2000 words 30%

Formative Assessment:

A formative assessment will be used to test knowledge and give students practice in summative essay and written test. The students will receive feedback (both individual and group) to enable them to assess their understanding of material.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University