Molecular Plant Sciences

Undergraduate teaching

Details of the wide range of courses taught entirely or in part by our staff.

IMPS is internationally recognised for its research in subjects ranging from synthetic biology to plant evolution.  We also have strong links with taxonomists and evolutionary biologists at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh and with over 500 other plant scientists locally through Edinburgh Plant Science.  This enthusiasm and diversity in plant science research is reflected in IMPS teaching programmes, which include a 4-year BSc Honours degree in Plant Science and a taught MSc in Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants with the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.  BSc students can choose from a wide range of biology courses in years 1-3 and can begin to specialise in Plant Science in from Year 2.  Year 4 includes a residential plant science field course, usually outside the UK, and a major research project, either within the institute or in one of its partner institutions in Edinburgh.  Members of staff of IMPS organize a number of the courses in years 1-4 and contribute to many others. Further details of courses and entry are provided by the Biology Teaching Organisation.


Undergraduate Programmes

Year 1 courses

The Origin & Diversity of Life

Organised by Dr Richard Milne. All biologists need to understand the basis of biological diversity and its significance for the individual and for the survival of populations and species. The artificial manipulation of diversity is often important in human economy for breeding better crops and domestic animals, and in understanding genetic malfunction. Origin and Diversity of Life is the first and, thus, most fundamental for both pure and applied biologists.

Year 2 courses

The Green Planet 2

Organised by Dr Justin Goodrich. The course is an introduction to modern plant biology that emphasises how plant science can be applied to improve crops and other useful plants, and how plants interact with other organisms. It contains a mix of basic plant biology, molecular biology, and whole organism biology. The course also includes an introduction to fungal biology and plant fungi interactions. Topics covered include plant hybridisation and evolution, nitrogen fixation, plant biomass exploitation, plant genetic manipulation, crop evolution and breeding, plant hormones and cell signalling, plant disease resistance. The Green Planet is not an ecology course, but does include significant whole organism content.

Year 3 courses

Evolution and Ecology of Plants 3

This is a third-year course, giving an account of the evolution of plants from their first tentative exploration of land to the rise and domination of the flowering plants, the stresses they overcame on the way, their distribution, diversity and taxonomy, and their impact on our planet. The course organizer is Dr Richard Milne and the teaching team consists of Professor Stephen Fry, Dr Catherine Kidner and Dr Richard Milne. This course counts directly towards Honours degrees in Plant Science and Ecological Science. It is useful background for students of Genetics, and Zoology, and will be found to be a useful component in any General Honours programme.

The course covers aspects of the origin, evolution and biodiversity of plants and fungi, their reproductive and breeding mechanisms, patterns of variation, mechanisms of interspecies competition and allelopathy, symbiosis and niche capture. The course introduces a comparison of morphological and molecular approaches to the study of the structure and phylogeny of vascular plant groups. Plant/environment interactions feature in the context of the evolution of early land plants, their shaping of and response to changes in atmospheric composition and climate, the species and structures of major Northern plant communities, and the impact of future climate change upon them. We hope that the evolution and ecology of plants and fungi - past and present, wild or cultivated - will be seen to be indissolubly linked.

Plant Physiology 3

This course is backed up by a great deal of relevant research activity, so that the boundaries between teaching and research become blurred. The course organizer is Professor Karl Oparka. The course is primarily about the aspects of higher plant physiology, biochemistry and molecular that make plants unique. It is centred on the study of how plants work, and especially the molecular processes underlying plant growth and development. It also looks at how plants interact with the physical conditions of their environment and with the micro-organisms that share their environment.

By the end of the course, students should know the basic carbon metabolism involved in photosynthesis, photorespiration and plant respiration, the assimilation of nitrogen compounds in plants, the methods and applications of plant genomics, the responses of plants to pathogenic and symbiotic micro-organisms, and the biochemistry of the primary cell wall and its role in growth regulation.

Year 4 courses

Plant Science 4

This is a two-semester 120-point programme leading to BSc Honours in Plant Science. The programme director is Dr Catherine Kidner. The programme is concerned with how plants grow and develop, how they respond to and interact with the environment, how they evolve and diversify, and their importance to human survival and wellbeing. Students can tailor course content to their own interests. The core of general plant science topics combines many important aspects of contemporary plant science, from the biology and ethics of GM to the use of DNA to the study evolution with different aspects of the molecular biology, biochemistry, evolutionary biology and ecology of plants or other organisms. Optional courses allow specific areas of plant biology to be considered in greater depth and students are also encouraged to integrate courses from other honours programmes. About half the Honours year is spent on an individual project as a member of an established research team.

Plant Science Field Course

This course organized by Dr. Richard Milne, is a 10-point course in the Honours program that runs in the preceding June. The course is compulsory for Plant Science 4 Honours students. It is an opportunity to demonstrate and investigate the diversity of European plants, and to learn techniques for their identification. The course also welcomes second year plant-orientated students who might be considering future entry into Plant Science Honours. Recent Field courses have taken place in the Burren, South-west Ireland, Naples and Cilento, Italy and Tenerife.