Plant Physiology


  • Office: 339 SCSC
  • Phone: x3503 or 740/5138775
  • Email: scwolver at Ohio Wesleyan
  • Files: Google Drive in BishopApps


  • Lecture M W F 10:00–10:50 in SCSC 244
  • Labs T or W 1:10–4:00 in SCSC 347


The main text for class is Plant Physiology Primer, a website I have created to provide an introduction to each topic we will be discussing. We will follow the order of topics in this online primer, so please read the next topic before coming to class.

An optional textbook for this class is The Molecular Life of Plants, by Jones, Ougham, Thomas, and Waaland (ISBN: 978-0-470-87012-9).


At the conclusion of the semester, students will be expected to:

  • Critically analyze primary literature articles from the current literature in plant physiology, development, and biochemistry
  • Formulate cogent hypotheses in any topic area covered in class
  • Accurately describe the currently-accepted hypotheses governing major topic areas in plant physiology and development
  • Successfully plan a research project using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and taking advantage of knockout mutants

Structure of the Class

Class meetings will consist of a mix of lectures and discussions. The lecture topics will be announced in advance and you should prepare by reading the indicated textbook or web background information. Discussions will center on assigned papers from the literature. It is imperative that you read the papers beforehand, even if they are difficult to understand the first time. Your investment of time beforehand will pay off in a growing ability to read and critically analyze primary literature, a skill you will need throughout this semester and in your career as a scientist.

The lab is extremely self-directed, centering almost entirely on an independent research project. You will be responsible for planning and executing your own experiments and will not be told what to do and when to do it. This is a great chance to learn more about research while gaining lab skills, but it is not a lab environment that all students are comfortable with. You and your team will need to plan your time and experiments to accomplish your goals. You will also need to communicate your research plans with me, including any specialized reagents and supplies required to complete your experiments.

List of Topics

Each of these topical questions provides a point of departure for discussing a number of core concepts in plant physiology.

  • How is germination regulated?
  • How do plants grow?
  • How do plants respond to environmental cues?
  • How do leaves transduce light energy to chemical energy?
  • How do plants defend themselves?
  • How do plants reproduce?


Each of the six topic areas above will conclude with a midterm exam worth 75 pts. In addition, you will write a research proposal (50 pts) and produce a paper (100 pts) and poster (50 pts) related to your lab research project. Because I value your interaction and engagement during class time, there is an additional 50 pts for attendance and participation.

Lab Research Project

The majority of laboratory time in this class will be devoted to an original, unscripted research project. Working in research teams, you will select a focus, identify mutants in your focus area, and design experiments to test the effect of your mutation. You will be responsible for writing a brief research proposal, acquiring mutant seed, verifying the mutation, designing and performing experiments to test your hypotheses, and creating a research poster. You will learn more about how to do each of these steps as the semester progresses.

Lab Notebook

As you carry out experiments for this class, you will record your methods and results in a lab notebook. In addition to using a paper notebook, I expect you to make heavy use of your BishopApps account for keeping online notes. One reason for this approach is the large amount of online data you will be accessing and collecting as part of your research project, which lends itself well to some form of online storage. Another reason to keep your notes online is to facilitate collaboration among you and your research team members.