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Bioscience: Plants and Pressure by Dr Jeremy Pritchard, The University of Birmingham

13th November 2012 @ 12:30 - 13:30

Plants are often seen as seen as boring in comparison to ‘exciting’ animals. However with climate change and a range of other issues, such as the need for increased food production, plants are central to human welfare. This seminar presents plants as dynamic hydraulic machines. A range of pressure driven processes in plants are presented including plant cell expansion, the movement of insectivorous plants and phloem transport that drives the products of photosynthesis around the plant. We demonstrate that human lungs can only generate feeble pressure compared to the mighty plant and compare these to pressurised systems in everyday life. The water relations underlying pressure generation is briefly discussed. Finally the ways in which high pressure plant systems such as the phloem transport pathway can protect themselves from attack by insect pests damage in a similar way to the clotting of blood in animals is presented.


I did an undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Sussex followed by a PhD in how plant roots grow at University College of North Wales, Bangor. In my research career I have worked in the US, Germany, Scotland and back in Wales on projects related to the adaptive response of plants to changing environments. I am now a Senior Lecturer/researcher in the School of Biosciences at the University of Birmingham.

By training I am a plant physiologist, but like most biologists, the recent rise of genetic technologies has revolutionised my research, so that now I also work in the more molecular areas. My core research is aimed at understanding how plants regulate the transport of water, sugars and salts. Like the human genome, the genetic information of many plants has been sequenced, but like humans we know very little about what the all the DNA does. To find out, we genetically modify plants to understand the function of the different genes. Our work has many applications, from producing plants that are more tolerant of salt and drought, through to those that are less palatable to herbivores such as aphids.

My teaching is diverse. I teach courses about my research area and also lead a range courses on evolution, ecology and field biology. Biology is an increasingly diverse subject, but the one common factor is evolution, whether it is the molecular motors that drive it, or the biodiversity that is its consequence. I am involved in the development of knowledge transfer at a national level. I chair the Society of Experimental Biology (SEB) Education and Public Affairs Committee (EPA) and am the BBSRC Local Outreach Co-ordinator. I speak on outreach and PuS policy issues nationally (e.g. ASE, BSF, Wellcome Trust Science Engagement). I am one of the admissions tutors for Biology and am involved in various school liaison projects that aim to address the public understanding of science and also facilitate progression across the secondary – tertiary boundary.


Suitable for: Year 12/Year 13

Preparation/Pre-reading: It would be helpful for students to prepare questions in advance relating to studying this subject at university. These questions may cover, for example, the application process, course structure, and university lifestyle.



13th November 2012
12:30 - 13:30
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