MSci Biochemistry / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Green Biotechnology (E)

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL31501
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


Green Biotechnology is a rapidly expanding field within modern biotechnology and involves the exploitation of plants and algae not only for the sustainable production of food, but also their utilisation as a source of renewable energy as a biofuel, and as a novel means to generate pharmaceuticals and other novel products. In addition, Green Biotechnology is aimed at developing more environmentally friendly processes compared to traditional industrial agriculture or chemical industry methods. 


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
`Omic Technologies & Resources BIOL21152 Pre-Requisite Recommended
Plants for the Future BIOL21202 Pre-Requisite Recommended


This unit will examine the technologies of plant genetic engineering and explore how these are used to generate more efficient crop plants, healthy and nutritious foods, and other commercially attractive products.

Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

• Understand how sustainable biotechnology can be achieved using plants

• Critically analyse and understand how to exploit the methods for how plants can be genetically manipulated

• Understand and be able to discuss how plant genetic engineering can be used to improve food production, generate healthy and nutritious foods, deliver renewable energy via plants, and enable pharmaceutical production using plants

• Understand how to make use of fundamental knowledge of plant processes in order to exploit plants for biotechnology

• Understand and be able to discuss some of the important aspects for the commercialisation of plant biotechnology

• Understand how to identify and interpret primary research findings in order to propose new research questions and develop new plant biotechnology applications


Course content will be provided in the form of lectures, material on Blackboard, and student-led seminars where groups of students will address questions on recent research paper advances related to each topic.

• Precision plant engineering: methods and mechanisms of plant genetic transformation and transgene integration; endogenous gene silencing and its applications; genome editing

• Engineering plants for improved nutrition: generating plants with improved vitamin and nutrient content - the golden rice story; alteration of plant metabolism

• Biotic stress tolerant crops: new approaches and strategies for tolerating plant pests and disease

• Biofuels from plants: biofuel potential, problems and solutions and ethical considerations

• Plants for biopharmaceuticals: plants as expression systems for pharmaceutical products; chloroplast engineering

• Plants for health: generation of ’superfoods’ by engineering secondary metabolism.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Student-led coursework report requires critical analysis of research paper data and experimental results. Critical analysis of the literature and lecture taught material is also expected in the exam essay.
Group/team working
A research paper is analysed by studentsin weekly workshops before answering specific questions.
The coursework report requires the students to generate a hypothetical research grant application therefore innovation is needed in the research ideas they identify.
Although not explicitly required, it is likely that some students will take the lead in organising the direction of the student-led seminar.
Project management
Students have to decide between themselves how to manage the student-led seminar they are presenting.
Oral communication
Students are expected to answer questions to address a research paper in student-led workshop sessions, as well as ask questoins.
Problem solving
Opportunities to develop problem solving skills depending on the topic of the coursework report and the exam questions which may require a degree of problem solving.
In generating the coursework report.
Written communication
Coursework report and one exam essay.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 25%
Written exam 75%

Open-book essay-based examination (75%), coursework assignment: a 3-page report based on a research paper (25%)

Feedback methods

Collective feedback on group answered questions; individual feedback on marked coursework; optional feedback on outline plan of coursework report; question/answer course round-up and revision session.

Recommended reading

  • Mostly primary research literature based with articles and links provided on Blackboard

Recommended Reading

  1. Slater, A, Scott, N, Fowler, M, Plant Biotechnology: The Genetic manipulation of plants (2nd edition), Oxford University Press, 2008, Recommended

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 18
Independent study hours
Independent study 80

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jon Pittman Unit coordinator

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