A variety of fourth-year projects and programmes in The School of Plant Biology and research partner organisations are available to students who have completed three years of study towards a Bachelor of Science degree either at this University or elsewhere. Whether you undertake a project or a programme depends on the degree in which you are enrolled.
The Fourth-Year project and the Honours project comprise the four-part Level 4 FNAS Research Thesis (SCIE4501 – SCIE4504), and make up 24 of the 48 points you need to pass in your fourth year. The FNAS Research Thesis mark will be taken into account when determining whether you will graduate with honours. The Level 4 project gives you a taste of what is involved in undertaking independent, supervised research. A separate information booklet outlining the organisational details of the Level 4 project will be issued at the start of semester.
Assessment for the FNAS Research Thesis is based on the ungraded Research Outline and Proposal Seminar, and on the graded Research Proposal (20%), Final Research Seminar (10%) and the Research Article (70%). These details will be confirmed at the start of your project.
The Honours programme is normally for students proceeding immediately from the third year of their BSc degree course (e.g. with a major in Agricultural Science, Botany, Conservation Biology, Environmental Science, Marine Science or Natural Resource Management). It typically consists of a research thesis plus four coursework units completed in approximately 9 months of full-time study or over 17 or 21 months of part-time study. Entrance into the Honours programme also requires that a student has obtained at least 65% in their science major.
During SCIE4501 – SCIE4504, students will receive basic training in a variety of generic skill areas, all necessary for you to work effectively as a professional scientist, as well as undertaking, under supervision, a major independent research project.
The Graduate Diploma programme is designed for students who already hold a Pass Degree and subsequently wish to extend their qualifications/expertise. The programme is substantially the same as for the Honours.
In the Research Thesis units, you will be working with a particular supervisor or supervisors and with other members of the School, in an area of research that you find personally interesting. We know, in completing a pass degree, that you can absorb scientific information and reproduce it under examination conditions. In the Level 4 project units, you will demonstrate that you can gather, generate, distil and communicate scientific information to your peers. At the end of the year, our staff will assess your performance in comparison with others who have passed through the School, and in relation to what we can expect from someone working in the particular programme you have selected. Of course, the research problems addressed and the methods of approach will differ amongst students, as they will depend upon the area of expertise in which each student is being trained; for example, some programmes may be essentially descriptive, others experimental. Nevertheless, there are some general features and qualities to be sought in all research, and these will be outlined in the unit information booklet to be provided at the commencement of the programme. This booklet will also provide details of the assessment procedures for the unit.
FACILITIES AND RESEARCH SUPERVISION
The School of Plant Biology is particularly well equipped for a wide range of projects in plant research. Facilities and equipment include: HPLC units, gas chromatographs, an atomic absorption spectrophotometer (housed in the School of Earth and Environment), portable infra-red gas analysers, portable chlorophyll fluorescence equipment, a real-time PCR instrument and UV/VIS spectrophotometers. The West Australian Biogeochemistry Centre, housed within the School, also provides facilities for measurement of stable isotopes through high precision mass spectrometry. The School is well equipped for molecular biology, radio isotope work and plant pathology. Computing facilities include IBM compatible PCs, Apple Macintosh computers and connections to the Campus network and the Internet. The School has a close association with the Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis through joint research programmes. The School maintains a reference herbarium of the flora of the southwest of the State. There is also a well-equipped photographic darkroom available. Field work is facilitated by a well-maintained fleet of vehicles, including 4WD’s and boats.
The School utilises a number of serviced glasshouses providing extensive bench space, and access to controlled growth cabinets and constant temperature rooms, including PC2 facilities. About one hectare of garden space is available on site and space is available at a field station at Shenton Park, about 6 km away. The School controls two relatively undisturbed areas of native vegetation within the metropolitan area (at Shenton Park and the Alison Baird Reserve, Kenwick), and is in close proximity to Kings Park and Bold Park, which each contain about 300 hectares of relatively undisturbed native vegetation and 17 hectares of developed botanical gardens.
Based within the School, The International Centre for Plant Breeding Education and Research provides advanced education and research in plant breeding to enhance the world’s future supply of plant-based food, fibre and industrial raw materials in an era of changing climates. The School has an integral role in the UWA Institute of Agriculture. The Institute is the University’s gateway to education, training and research in agriculture and resource management. The Institute is based in FNAS and integrates the Faculty’s activities with those of other groups in the University with interests in agriculture, land and water management, rural economy, policy and development, food and health.
While much of the south-western part of Western Australia has been cleared for agriculture, large habitat areas comprising native flora, often approaching pristine conditions, have been preserved through a system of National Parks and Reserves. The proximity of this unique natural resource to the modern facilities available in the School makes botanical research at this University particularly attractive. Joint research interests are encouraged between the School and institutions having practical needs for the information generated. These institutions include Dept. of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, CSIRO, Dept. of Environment and Conservation, Dept. of Planning and Infrastructure, Environmental Protection Authority, Dept. of Water, WA Water Corporation, and a number of mining and forestry companies. Projects involving joint participation with other institutions and/or other Schools at this University can involve the participation of outside supervisors.