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First-Year Seminar: The Secret Lives of Plants

Biology And Biomedical Sciences 1260 - Fall 2021

This course is designed to familiarize undergraduate students with the fascinating lives of plants, their evolution, their remarkable structural and morphological diversity, how they grow, and how they have been modified to feed the planet. Topics include: how plants can survive with just water, minerals and light, how they transport water astonishing distances, their unusual sex lives, why they make seeds, how they can grow nearly forever, how plants survive extreme environments without running to hide, why they synthesize caffeine, nicotine, THC and opiates, how they defend themselves from pathogens without an immune system, how they sense their environment without dedicated sensory organs, how plants have been modified by humans to provide food, fiber and fuel, and how genetically modified (GMO) crops are made and their implications to the environment and society. Overall goals are to enhance an understanding and appreciation of the plant kingdom, to help young scientists understand the primary scientific literature, and as a starting point for possible careers in plant biology. Class includes field trips to the Missouri Botanical Gardens and a local plant biotech company/institute. Where appropriate, the class will also emphasize key differences between plants and animals. This course is primarily for first-year students interested in majoring in biology, with a possible emphasis on plants. This course is also for those that want to know more about where their food comes from, how these amazing creatures survive and flourish, and how GMO crops are engineered. Upper-level students with an interest in food and sustainable agriculture but not necessarily focusing on plants will also be welcome. Course will be lecture/discussion/hands-on format for 2 of the 3 hours per week. Students will present 20-minute papers discussing topics relevant to their interests for the remaining 1 hour (two students per class). Prerequisites: Students must have taken both biology and

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First-Year Seminar: The Secret Lives of Plants
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