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Biology 127: Introductory Plant Biology

 Fall 2014 Course Syllabus


Welcome to Introductory Plant Biology! This course aims to develop your scientific thinking and information-gathering skills, and to provide you with the ability to carry out key steps in the scientific process: observation, assimilation and organization of background knowledge, research question formulation, experimental design and data collection, and data analysis and interpretation. We will apply these skills to multiple areas of plant biology, including plant cell biology, structure and function, nutrition, hormones, reproduction, genetics, evolution, and diversity. I’m looking forward to helping you learn this semester! – Dr. Anderson


Course Goals:

- Help you develop scientific critical thinking and information-gathering skills

- Help you learn key terms, facts, and concepts in plant biology and how they are connected

- Help you understand how plants are built and function at biochemical, cellular, and whole-organism levels

- Help you integrate biological information about plants into strategies for their effective use by humans


Learning Objectives:

- Students will demonstrate the ability to apply the scientific process to biological questions and information

- Students will develop a biological vocabulary that will allow them to describe plant structure and function

- Students will integrate factual knowledge of plants into a conceptual understanding of plant structure and function

- Students will develop laboratory skills to investigate plant evolution, anatomy, and physiology

- Students will design an experimental approach that addresses a key question or problem in plant biology


Instructor:       Dr. Charles T. Anderson, Assistant Professor of Biology

Office: 410 Huck Life Sciences Building


Office Hours: Wednesday and Friday 11 am -12 noon and by appointment


TAs:                TBA


Required Textbook: Stern’s Introductory Plant Biology, 13th edition, Jansky and Bidlack (McGraw Hill Publishers)


Challenge Modules:

The course will be divided into five Challenge Modules. Each Challenge Module will focus on one area of plant biology and will be centered on a specific Challenge as described below. Your objectives in each Challenge Module will be to learn relevant information, integrate this knowledge into conceptual understanding, and apply this understanding to address the Challenge as part of an Examination.


1) Plant Cell Biology and Energy

Challenge: Imagine that you are a plant. What do you need to do at the cellular and molecular levels to survive?

2) Plant Structure and Function

Challenge: You are designing a plant that will survive on Mars for a planned colonization mission. What structural features should the plant have?

3) Plant Nutrition and Physiology

Challenge: As a farmer, you need to maximize the growth of your maize crop to maximize your yield at harvest. How can you do this?

4) Plant Genetics and Evolution

Challenge: A weedy plant species has invaded your golf course. What can you do to get rid of it?

5) Plant Diversity and Taxonomy

Challenge: You go on a backpacking trip and get lost in a forest without enough food. How can you identify a plant that you can eat without it killing you?


Interactive Classes: Tuesday and Thursday 1:25-2:15, 112 Buckhout Laboratory

Each Interactive Class will include short lectures on relevant information, interactive i>clicker Questions, and discussion of Written Assignments. Your preparation for and participation in every class, including completing all required reading and Written Assignments, is essential for the success of the course!


Written Assignments:

To help you engage with the required reading for each Interactive Class and develop your knowledge of plants and scientific thinking skills, short Written Assignments will be made available on ANGEL and must be submitted via ANGEL BEFORE the beginning of each class period. No late submissions will be accepted. Each Written Assignment is worth 5 points.



Exams will be based on material from required reading, Interactive Classes, Written Assignments, and Labs.


Challenge Module Exams will be administered through the e-testing center and will consist of multiple choice and short answer questions. They are designed to test your knowledge of the information and concepts presented in each Challenge Module and your ability to combine that knowledge with information from previous Challenge Modules.


The Final Exam will consist of multiple-choice questions and will test your ability to understand and integrate key facts and concepts from throughout the semester. The last Challenge Module Exam and Final Exam will both be held during the Final Exam period (check "Final Exam Schedule" on eLion).


Makeup exams will be available to students with a legitimate excuse such as illness, University sponsored event (including religious holidays recognized by the University), a death in the family, and, during finals week, 3 or more final exams on one day. You should check the final exam schedule as soon as it is posted to help you anticipate any conflicts with exam time. If you need to miss an exam for any reason, you must meet with Dr. Anderson in person during Office Hours or by appointment, ideally well in advance of the exam, to discuss your situation.


Experimental Design Project:

You will complete a Experimental Design Project (1500 words minimum, 2000 words maximum) in which you formulate a scientific Question in the field of plant biology, perform research on the background information surrounding your Question (and revise your Question if desired), design an Experiment that addresses your question, predict the Results of your Experiment, and provide an Interpretation for the predicted Results. A draft of your Question (5 points) is due on ANGEL by 5 pm on Friday, Nov 7. A 400-600-word summary of relevant background information with citations (10 points) is due on ANGEL by 5 pm on Tuesday, December 7. You will have the opportunity to obtain feedback on your plan for the project in class on Tuesday, December 9. The final Experimental Design Project (85 points) is due in typed, double-spaced printed format at the beginning of the Final Exam.


Labs:                           150 North Frear

Section 3:  Tuesday 9:05-11:00

Section 5: Tuesday 11:15-1:10

Section 7: Monday 3:35-5:30

Section 8: Monday 11:15-1:10

Section 10: Monday 1:25-3:20

Labs will commence in the week of September 8 in 150 N Frear. The labs are designed give you hands-on laboratory experience in plant biology and put into practice the information and concepts you learn in the Interactive Classes. Each Lab will include a short introduction to the laboratory activity, a quiz to check for your understanding of the lab instructions, experimental setup, execution, and cleanup, and data collection and interpretation. You will also have the opportunity to ask further clarification questions about the information discussed in class, particularly in preparation for exams. Your lab grades will be based on an assessment of your work in the lab sessions and written reports that you will submit at the end of each lab. The labs are an integral part of the course and an important component of your final grade. Instructions and Reports for each lab can be accessed through ANGEL. It is YOUR responsibility to print out the Instructions and Report prior to each lab. In addition to these items, please bring a pen, pencil, ruler and calculator to each lab.




Your course grade will be determined as follows:

Written Assignments (5 points each)                       130 points

Challenge Module Exams (5 exams)                       360 points

Comprehensive Final Exam                                    120 points

Labs (12 Labs, 20 points each)                               240 points

Experimental Design Project                                   100 points                       

i>clicker Questions                                           up to 50 points

                                                      TOTAL           1000 points


The following grade cutoffs will be used assuming a class mean of 70-75%. Should the class mean fall outside this range, grades will be assigned using appropriate grade cutoffs as determined by the instructor.

 A        930 and up      (93.0% and above)

 A-       900 - 929         (90.0% to 92.9%)

 B+       870 - 899         (87.0% to 89.9%)

 B         830 - 869         (83.0% to 86.9%)

 B-       800 - 829         (80.0% to 82.9%)

 C+       770 - 799         (77.0% to 79.9%)

 C         700 - 769         (70.0% to 76.9%)

 D        600 - 699         (60.0% to 69.9%)

 F         Below 600       (below 60%)


Clickers: You will need to purchase an i>clicker remote for in-class participation. i>clicker is a response system that allows you to respond to questions posed during class; these responses will allow you to accumulate a maximum of 50 bonus points. There are no make-ups for clicker questions – you must be in class to receive these points and you must register your clicker online and have your clicker with you during each class. To receive credit for your clicker questions, you must have your Penn State username (e.g., abc123) registered with your clicker ID; follow the link in ANGEL to register your clicker. Updated point totals will be posted at regular intervals. It is your responsibility to check that your points are being posted accurately and notify the instructor if there is a problem. Misuse of clickers or sharing information on clicker questions, unless expressly permitted, is a violation of the University Academic Integrity policy and may result in failing the course.  


Class website: Course information will be posted on the ANGEL course website; this is also where you will submit your Written Assignments. Lecture notes will be posted at least 24 h before each lecture and can be printed out as an aid for note taking. DO NOT BE FOOLED: the lecture notes are NOT a substitute for attending class. The best way to succeed in Biology 127 is to attend and participate in ALL of the Interactive Classes and Labs (that’s what your tuition is paying for, right?).


Academic Integrity: If you are caught cheating on an exam, you will receive 0 points for that exam and may have the case referred to Judicial Affairs. The University’s policy on Academic Integrity can be viewed at (see subtopic “Academic Integrity) and the Eberly College of Science regulations concerning academic integrity can be viewed at These guidelines will be strictly enforced. 


Be aware that academic dishonesty is not limited to simply cheating on an exam. To quote directly from the Faculty Senate Policies for students:  “Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception and is an educational objective of this institution. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarizing, fabrication of information or citations, facilitating acts of academic dishonesty, having unauthorized possession of examinations, submitting work of another person or work previously used without informing the instructor or tampering with the academic work of another student.”  From the Eberly College of Science: “In an examination setting, violations of academic integrity shall consist of any attempt to receive assistance from written or printed aids, from any person or papers or electronic devices or of any attempt to give assistance, whether the student doing so has completed his or her own work or not. Other violations include but are not limited to any attempt to gain unfair advantage in regard to an examination such as tampering with a graded exam or claiming another’s work to be one’s own.” Lying to gain an advantage over other students is also an academic integrity violation.

All University and Departmental policies regarding academic integrity/academic dishonesty apply to this course and the students enrolled in this course. Refer to the following details on academic integrity policies of the Eberly College of Science at


Code of Conduct: We expect you to be courteous to your fellow students. To quote the faculty senate:  “The University's Code of Conduct states that all students should act with personal integrity, respect other students' dignity, rights and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts.” Please focus on the material being presented. Silence and put away your cell phone before lecture begins. If you are late, please come in quietly. Confine personal conversations to times outside of class. If you have a question about the class material, please raise your hand and ask (often, if you are confused so are others and I am more than happy to explain concepts that are unclear).


Note on Technology: The most effective way for you to take notes and learn in this class will be with a pen/pencil and paper, since many of the concepts will involve anatomical diagrams and flow charts. The use of laptops, tablets, cell phones, or any other electronic devices besides i>clickers is strongly discouraged during class unless special arrangements are made with the instructor, for example in case of a disability.


For Students with Disabilities: Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. If you have a disability-related need for reasonable academic adjustments in this course, contact the Office for Disability Services (ODS) at 814-863-1807 (V/TTY). For further information regarding ODS, please visit the Office for Disability Services Web site at


In order to receive consideration for course accommodations, you must contact ODS and provide documentation (see the documentation guidelines at If the documentation supports the need for academic adjustments, ODS will provide a letter identifying appropriate academic adjustments. Please share this letter and discuss the adjustments with your instructor as early in the course as possible. You must contact ODS and request academic adjustment letters at the beginning of each semester.


Acknowledgement: This syllabus is based partly on previous BIOL 127 syllabi produced by Dr. Carolyn Jensen and Dr. Philip Jensen.


Biology 127 Interactive Class and Exam Schedule 


Interactive Class Topic

Required Reading

Tuesday Aug 26

0.1 Introduction to Plant Biology


Thursday Aug 28

0.2 Scientific Inquiry

Chapters 1-2

Tuesday Sept 2

1.1 Plant Cells I

Chapter 3

Thursday Sept 4

1.2 Plant Cells II

Chapter 3

Tuesday Sept 9

1.3 Photosynthesis I

Chapter 10

Thursday Sept 11

1.4 Photosynthesis II

Chapter 10

Tuesday Sept 16

1.5 Respiration I

Chapter 10

Thursday Sept 18

1.6 Respiration II

Chapter 10

Tuesday Sept 23

2.1 Tissues

Chapter 4

Thursday Sept 25

2.2 Roots

Chapter 5

Friday Sept 26

Challenge Module 1 Exam (80 points)


Tuesday Sept 30

2.3 Shoots

Chapter 6

Thursday Oct 2

2.4 Flowers and Reproduction

Chapters 8, 14

Tuesday Oct 7

2.5 Leaves

Chapter 7

Thursday Oct 9

2.6 Fruits and Seeds

Chapter 8

Tuesday Oct 14

3.1 Xylem and Water

Chapter 9

Thursday Oct 16

3.2 Phloem and Sugars

Chapter 9

Friday Oct 17

Challenge Module 2 Exam (80 points)


Tuesday Oct 21

3.3 Mineral Nutrition

Chapter 9

Thursday Oct 23

3.4 Plant Movement

Chapter 11

Tuesday Oct 28

3.5 Plant Hormones I

Chapter 11

Thursday Oct 30

3.6 Plant Hormones II

Chapter 11

Tuesday Nov 4

4.1 Mitosis & Meiosis

Chapter 3

Thursday Nov 6

4.2 Genetics: Introduction

Chapter 13

Friday Nov 7

Challenge Module 3 Exam (80 points)

Experimental Design Project Question Due

Tuesday Nov 11

4.3 Patterns of Inheritance

Chapter 13

Thursday Nov 13

4.4 Genetic Engineering

Chapter 13

Tuesday Nov 18

4.5 Evolution of Populations

Chapter 15

Thursday Nov 20

4.6 Evolution of Species

Chapter 15

Tuesday Nov 25

No class – Thanksgiving break


Thursday Nov 27

No class – Thanksgiving break


Tuesday Dec 2

5.1 Plant Diversity: Seedless Plants

Chapters 20-21

Thursday Dec 4

5.2 Plant Diversity: Higher Plants

Chapters 22-23

Friday Dec 5

Challenge Module 4 Exam (80 points)


Tuesday Dec 9

Experimental Design Project Workshop


Thursday Dec 11

5.3 Ecosystems

Chapters 25-26

Finals Week: Date and Time TBA

CM 5 Exam (40 points) and Final Exam (160 points)