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Laboratory Experience in
Plant Biology
Biology 234
Fall 2007

Dr. Kathryn Edwards
Higley 214
PBX 5398
office hours: T/R 3-5 pm, F 4-5 and by appointment

Course Description

This laboratory course is designed to introduce you to a variety of topics and methods within the field of plant biology. Topics will include the cell, tissue, and organ structure of vascular seed plants, molecular taxonomy, and experimental investigation of selected plant processes such as photosynthesis, transpiration, and hormonal interactions in growth and development. We will use a variety of techniques and approaches in our studies, including microscopy, physiological techniques, and molecular biology. In addition, you will carry out a semester-long independent analysis of an unknown plant.
Course requirements
  • Participation. Attendance and thoughtful participation in both laboratory activities/experiments and discussion is mandatory, including periodic brief oral updates on your unknown plant (see laboratory schedule). You will receive a zero for any lab period that is missed. Laboratory exercises can not be made up. If you know that you will miss more than one Tuesday afternoon lab session (i.e. because of sporting events), see me immediately.

  • Notebook: Keeping a thorough and organized laboratory notebook is essential for any scientist. Your notebook should be thorough enough that another individual could repeat your study. Notebooks will be handed in to be graded on a regular basis. Note that the notebook grade is a substantial portion of your course grade - your notebook should reflect everything that you accomplish in this class. For any labwork that you perform, you should include:
  • Most of your lab notebook will be produced in class, although your notebook should also include all other notes you take relevant to the course, including notes on library research you carry out, class discussions, ideas, etc. Keeping your notebook up to date at all times will likely improve your grade. I recommend that you use a looseleaf three-ring binder, organized with sections for the various projects that we will be carrying out during the semester. This way you can easily add pages to a given section as you work further on that project. Page numbers and an index will be helpful.
  • Lab reports.
  • Safety
    You are responsible for your own safety during laboratory classes. The most important safety rule is to think before acting. Wear protective devices whenever needed including eye protection, lab coats, and gloves. If you have a question about a safety issue, stop the experiment and ask.

    Laboratory practice

    You are responsible for the equipment and space that you use - please leave the equipment and laboratory/plant growth spaces in the same (or better!) condition than you found them. Clean all glassware, potting supplies, benchtops, and instruments thoroughly.

    Grading scheme/assignments

    Late penalties

    A 10% penalty per day will be exacted for any written assignment turned in late. Oral presentations may be given on the assigned date only (no late presentations will be accepted).
    Academic honesty
    I strongly encourage you to exchange information, discuss class material, and bounce ideas off of one another (and me).  However, all work submitted for evaluation must be your own, and all contributions from others must be explicitly acknowledged (state who you worked with and the nature of the interaction). Please review the College policy on academic honesty.  If you have questions or are unsure, please ask!
    If you have a physical, psychological, medical or learning disability that may impact your ability to participate fully in this class, I would urge that you contact the Office of Disability Services at 5453.  The Coordinator of Disability Services, Erin Salva (, will review your concerns and determine, with you, what accommodations are appropriate. All information and documentation of disability is confidential. In addition, please feel free to discuss your concerns with me in private.
    Lab schedule
    This schedule is tentative and subject to change.
    Date Topic Reports due
    9/2 Intro, start unknown plant project  
    9/9 Angiosperm structure I: Morphology (meet at BFEC)  
    9/16 Angiosperm structure II: Anatomy  
    9/23 Photosynthesis Lab notebooks due by noon 9/20;
    Update on unknown plants in lab
    9/30 Transpiration and stomata
    10/7 Growth regulation: hormones and light I  
    10/14 Growth regulation: hormones and light II
    Lab notebooks due by noon 10/18;
    Update on unknown plants in lab
    10/28 Molecular systematics I:
    (DNA extraction from unknown plants)

    11/4  Molecular systematics II:
    (PCR reactions with DNA from last week)
    Lab reports due by noon 10/28
    11/11 Molecular systematics III:
    (run PCR products on agarose gels, send to be sequenced)
    11/18 Catch up, work on unknown plant project
    Lab notebooks due by noon 11/15;
    Update on unknown plants in lab
    11/25 Thanksgiving break  
    Molecular systematics IV:
    (sequence analysis)

    12/9 Unknown plant project oral reports
    12/17 NOON   Unknown plant lab report due;
    Lab notebooks due final time

    last updated 092602