Plant Molecular Physiology and Genetics

The details
Life Sciences (School of)
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
15 March 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BSC C110 Biotechnology,
BSC C111 Biotechnology (Including Foundation Year),
BSC C112 Biotechnology (Including Year Abroad),
BSC C113 Biotechnology (Including Placement Year)

Module description

During this module, students will gain an understanding of the essential processes and constraints on plant growth and development to enable exploitation of plants to continue to provide the world with everyday products ranging from food and fuel to pharmaceutical drugs and beauty products.

This module will explore how innovative technological approaches in plant sciences may provide real solutions to our future predicted global food shortage. Implementation of such biotechnological processes including exploiting gene technologies and 'omics' approaches will speed up the development and selection of food crop varieties that are resistant to abiotic and biotic stress.

Module aims

The aim of this module is:

  • To provide a view of how a fundamental understanding of plant processes can impact on the production of plants for the 21st century.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Describe the importance of plants for food, fuel and fibre in the modern world.

  2. Demonstrate knowledge of the relationship between whole plant physiology and processes at the cellular and biochemical level.

  3. Describe how plant development and physiology are affected by and respond to key environmental factors.

  4. Describe how gene activity can be manipulated using GM and non-GM approaches.

  5. Demonstrate knowledge of the relationship between genes and whole plant responses.

  6. Demonstrate knowledge of the modern genetic approaches being adopted to improve crop yields.

  7. Demonstrate competence in written communication and data analysis and interpretation.

Module information

Plants are the foundation for all life on earth, and provide the oxygen, food, fuel and medicines that enable human existence. Increasing concerns of the impacts of climate change on sustainable food and fuel production for the growing global population is placing plant biology at the forefront of Biological Sciences research.

Our understanding of plant processes is moving rapidly as the techniques of molecular biology and genetics improve and this course aims to give an up to date understanding of key aspects of plant biology and the potential impacts on food security. We study plant physiology processes including carbon assimilation in different photosynthetic pathways (C3, C4 and CAM) and the advantages these confer. How modern molecular and genetic approaches are being used to manipulate various plant processes to increase yield and/or increase stress tolerance in crops will be examined, including the recent development of synthetic wheat. The use of multiparent advanced generation intercross (MAGIC) populations to more accurately identify genetic fingerprints for target traits and how such methods greatly improve traditional breeding approaches will be explored.

The overall goal of this course is to provide a fundamental understanding of plant processes and how modern techniques are being used to improve crop yields needed for the production of sustainable food and fuel for the 21st century.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One 1-hour lecture per week.
  • One seminar class.
  • One revision class before the summer exam.
  • Two 3-hour practicals or equivalent.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Exam  Main exam: In-Person, Open Book (Restricted), 120 minutes during Summer (Main Period) 
Exam  Reassessment Main exam: In-Person, Open Book (Restricted), 120 minutes during September (Reassessment Period) 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


Coursework Exam
50% 50%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr John Stamford, email:
Professor Tracy Lawson, Dr John Stamford, Dr Amanda Cavanagh, Dr Pallavi Singh
School Undergraduate Office, email: bsugoffice (Non essex users should add to create the full email address)



External examiner

Prof Edgar Turner
University of Cambridge
Professor of Insect Ecology
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


Further information
Life Sciences (School of)

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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