Plants play an important role in food production and in our local environment. The Plant Sciences aims to understand the molecular basis of plant development, physiology and microbial interactions, including research from unicellular algae through to modern crop varieties.
It forms a part of the Natural Sciences course in the second year-Part IB, after completing IA exams successfully. It is offered as a full-time course and lasts for three or four years, depending on the specialist subjects chosen. The teaching together covers cellular and ecological options as 7 modules.
The course reflects the growing need to understand how plants work from cellular to population and community levels. It is expected that each student will attend two modules in each term.
First term modules.
M1: Plant Signalling Networks
M2: Microbes and organelle evolution;
M3: Dynamics, History and Phylogeny of Vegetation;
Second term modules.
L1: Development of Plants;
L2: Plants in a Changing Environment;
L3: Frontiers in Plant Metabolism;
L4: Deconstructing and Reconstructing Plant Genomes.
The inter-departmental nature of the course in Ecology allows Conservation to be taken with other modules in Zoology or Genetics. It provides important background to the more specialised subjects covered in Part II Plant Sciences, and also provides an excellent basis for Part II in Biochemistry, Genetics, Zoology, or Ecology. The modular nature of the course means that students can study for a Plant Sciences degree with almost any combination of physiological, ecological, or molecular components.
The aim of the course is to provide a treatment of plant and microbial sciences which truly integrates the molecular, cellular and ecological approaches to the subject. Under each topic the lectures deal with the major issues and ideas to arise from studying plants in the field, and describe our current understanding of the relevant processes at the cellular and molecular levels.
These include lectures, supervisions, practical classes, including integrated class research projects and a vacation field trip. Assessment for this course is through two unseen written examinations and practical examinations.
Opportunities exist for students to design their own projects, and projects that combine different disciplines within the Plant Sciences are encouraged. Students prepare a short oral presentation on their project material at the start of the third term. Tuition in communication skills and effective speaking, with video-tutoring, is offered and the final presentation is assessed. In addition, students are required to complete a Trends-style essay of 2,500 words in the term in which they are not doing their research project.