Frontiers in Plant Science

Course content


This advanced course is devoted to learning you how to read scientific literature. As such it is of interest for all students preparing for an individual master thesis study. The subject of each course session is an original publication published recently in a high-impact scientific journal. The research topics all belong to the frontier of plant science. Here we are not assisted by textbooks but are guided by recent reviews and the newest scientific literature. The articles are read in detail with focus on data analysis, they are presented by students and discussed in groups and in plenum. In lectures given by teachers, each representing strong scientific groupings in the new Copenhagen Plant Science Center, the research topics discussed are placed in a broader context.

The selected topics of the course changes each year depending on the current directions of research but examples of previous subjects are given below.

1. Photosynthesis and its regulation
How do the photosystems of plants respond to different light conditions (intensity, wavelength, duration) and to changes in other environmental factors?

2. Regulation of carbohydrate metabolism
How is whole plant growth tuned by the key steps of carbohydrate metabolism at the cellular level?

3. Molecular physiology of mineral nutrient acquisition, transport and utilization
Plants use a wide range of mechanisms and responses to acquire essential mineral nutrients from the soil. How are these mechanisms working together?

4. Plant hormones: Signal perception and transduction
Phytohormones can initiate a wide range of contrasting responses. How can different stimuli give rise to different responses all use the same messenger?

5. Plant microbe interactions
Plants interact with a diverse range of microorganisms which can be both beneficial (e.g. symbiotic nitrogen fixation) and harmful (e.g. causing disease).

6. Responses to abiotic stresses
Progress in understanding plant responses to stress has been impressive. The problem of how plant homeostasis is maintained in a changing environment still raises many new questions.

7. Development
The onset of flowering represents a major developmental shift in the plant life cycle and a myriad of genes control this developmental process. Programmed cell death is a controlled process that results in senescence.

8. Plant cell polymers and cell wall elongation
The plant cell wall is not a dead coat. Recent research shows that it is a complex and dynamic entitity controlling many vital plant processes.

9. Bioimaging as a powerful technology to study long distance transport in plants.

10. Light signaling processes in plants to ensure optimal metabolic responses to external stimuli.

11. Biosynthesis of pharmacologically active terpenoids and their production by heterologous expression.

12. Biosynthesis of cyanogenic glucosides and their multiple roles in primary and secondary metabolism.

13. Biosynthesis and regulation of glucosinolates and their production in heterologus hosts.

14. Gene silencing
Gene silencing occurs naturally by small interfering RNAs but can also be induced by virus mediated gene silencing. Both mechanisms can be used as effective tools to study gene function in plants.



MSc Programme in Biology-Biotechnology
MSc Programme in Agriculture

Learning outcome


The aim of the course is to learn the student to read and understand scientific literature. After completing the course, the student will have a thorough knowledge of selected important research topics within modern plant biology. The course will illustrate how novel technologies within plant genomics, genetics, biochemistry and physiology are used to produce coherent knowledge of complex biological systems which previously were difficult to understand. The use of the new knowledge in designing crop plants for the future using classical breeding in combination with genetic engineering will be discussed.

After completion of the course the student should be able to:
- describe the frontiers of international research in plant science within a range of core areas.
- identify molecular methods and approaches which can be used to solve specific problems within plant biology.

- interpret data presented in scientific articles

- take a critical and creative standpoint to the presented scientific problems.
- use basic knowledge from other disciplines in an integrated manner when analysing current problems in plant biology.
- discuss ethical problems related to the latest developments in plant science.

- evaluate critically the limits and possibilities of new theories and the solidity of experimental evidence.
- transfer theories and principles from advanced state-of-the-art molecular plant biology to solve new questions posed by the research community, industry and the society.


Lectures and discussions based on recent articles from the scientific literature and case studies (journal clubs). The presentations demonstrate how important molecular biological methods are being used to solve current scientific problems within plant biology. Lectures and journal clubs.


15-20 scientific papers will be part of curriculum. Further information will be available on Absalon.


Knowledge within biochemistry, plant physiology, anatomy, genetics, bioinformatics and molecular biology

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 30 min
Oral examination. No preparation time.
Written aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
One internal examiner
Criteria for exam assessment

See Learning outcome

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 40
  • Theory exercises
  • 24
  • Preparation
  • 132
  • Exam
  • 10
  • English
  • 206