PHP-32006 Current Topics in Plant Biotechnology


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Individual Paper2
Group work2
Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. MHAJ Joosten
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. MHAJ Joosten
dr. ir. A Goverse
dr. JW van 't Klooster
dr. ir. R Heidstra
dr. ir. A Schouten
dr. ir. A Schots
dr. ZH Robaey
Examiner(s)dr. ir. MHAJ Joosten

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

Completed BSc that is relevant to the MSc Plant Biotechnology.


This course is obligatory for all MPB students and links various aspects of the courses, the MSc thesis and internship within MPB. Special attention is given to overarching and current topics that are relevant to the field of plant biotechnology. The course runs throughout Period 1 in the afternoons (6 weeks), allowing students to form a community of learners that focus on the societal, environmental, ethical, legal, IPR and socio-economic aspects of plant biotechnology, taking the various technologies as a starting point. Essentially, three main issues will be leading: (1) what is possible within Plant Biotechnology (the technology), (2) what is allowed within Plant Biotechnology (concerning environmental safety regulations, for example) and (3) what will be accepted by society (the societal debate).
- students will meet each other to discuss current technologies and topics in plant biotechnology;
- there will be discussions and debates on ethics and philosophical issues;
- There will be a module on argumentation and fallacies, which is a useful tool from a philosophy perspective.Furthermore, there will be a module on responsible innovation, how to understand different stakeholder’s perspectives and how to make design choices.
- there will be guest lecturers, who will present relevant topics and research innovations, open for discussion;
- students will write an essay, which will be (peer) reviewed by the students and by the teaching staff and presented by the students in a Symposium at the end of the course;
- there will be excursions to Biotech/Seed companies.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:

give an overview of current topics, developments and debates in plant biotechnology;

reflect on presentations related to a current topic in the field of plant biotechnology;

reflect on knowledge generation and learning processes and formulate their personal opinion on this;

understand the meaning of ethics in research;

take part in a structured debate with valid arguments (pro’s and cons);

- understand the steps involved in development of new technologies and applications in plant biotechnology;

consider the various options for their own career in plant biotechnology.


The course consists of different theoretical and practical elements:

(Parts that have been proposed; still to be decided)

Individual part: writing of an Opinion Paper on a specific topic related to Plant Biotechnology (instructions and rubric are provided on Brightspace).

The students will have to learn how to write; include a few sessions at the Wageningen Writing Lab (WWL) for each student. We can invite a WWL tutor who can give an explanation about what WWL is doing.

The paper should contain about 2000 words and the writing of a group of 10-15 students will be coached by one of the teachers.

-  The students review each other’s work in several sessions, in the form of a Thesis Ring, with the coach of the group of students as a tutor. Peer feed-back will be performed according to the rubric.

The personal opinion of the student on the topic is important.

Each student will make a personal poster, which will be accessible for all through Brightspace. This poster will be presented when students interview (speed-date?) each other on their BSc, hobbies and plans for their MSc studies (Thesis, Internship, etc.).

Group work: work on a certain assignment within Plant Biotechnology; focus with a group of four students on a certain topic; come with a report and make a Power Point presentation that will eventually be presented as part of a symposium at the end of the course (with drinks). (Avoid overlap with BSc Plant Biotechnology?).

Presentations: we will invite guest speakers that cover the different specialisations within Plant Biotechnology (for example 2 speakers per specialisation):

Functional Plant Genomics;

Plants for Human and Animal Health;

Molecular Breeding;

Molecular Plant Pathology.

This will help the students with getting an idea of what is done within a certain specialisation and will help to make a choice. The students should try to find out themselves what each specialisation is about.

In addition, speakers can be invited that cover issues like ethics, career choice, financing research, entrepreneurship, publishing, etc..

Students should write a short reflection on (some of) them.

All sessions with speakers will be obligatory; they are not just lectures.


- (40%) Prepare Personal Poster and write reflection on your expectation of the MSc;
- (40%) Group Assignment: write document and do presentation;
- (20%) Debate preparation and performance.


All course information is available on Brighspace.

Compulsory for: MPBPlant BiotechnologyMSc1AF