Institute for Plant Biotechnology
Welcome to Stellenbosch University


​Because of the interdisciplinary nature of biotechnology, postgraduate students with diverse academic backgrounds, such as plant sciences, biochemistry, microbiology and genetics, are accepted at BSc Honours level. Students can also enrol for master's or doctoral studies in plant biotechnology, during which time they will form an integral part of our research programme.

788 (120) BSc Hons in Plant Biotechnology 

Course Overview

The honours programme is designed to provide students with career-oriented training, which should enable them to work as biotechnologists. Our students learn to read and think critically and synthetically, ask scientific questions and communicate formally and informally (verbally and in writing). They will apply scientific methods, gather information from literature and process that information, learn to communicate in the scientific community, master the technical skills necessary for working in the field of biotechnology, and plan and conduct, evaluate and report research.

The duration of the programme is one academic year and begins at the start of the general academic year. Strong emphasis is placed on mastering laboratory skills. Evaluation is done by continuous assessment and an oral exam.

The Honours program manager is Dr C van der Vyver and enquiries can be directed to:

Admission requirements

A BSc degree with Genetics 314, 315, 344 and 345 are recommended for admission to the honours degree programme in Plant Biotechnology or equivalent modules in the Biological Science field at SU or other universities. An average final mark of at least 60% is required for the Plant Biotechnology honours degree programme.

Course contents

The programme consists of the seven modules listed below. One of the elective modules must be chosen. Students are also expected to complete a project in plant biotechnology independently, under the supervision of an academic staff member, and present the results in the form of a research publication. 

The following modules form part of the BSc Honours degree in Biotechnology: Molecular Techniques, Plant Physiology, Integrated Plant Metabolism (elective)​, Biostatistics (elective), Scientific and Proposal Writing, Plant Genetics and Crop Improment and Plant Genomics.

715 (16): Genetics: Molecular techniques

Compulsory module: The aim of this module is to teach students practical skills so that they can perform basic molecular techniques and introductory bioinformatic applications. This module also aims to improve students' understanding of the application of these techniques, thereby enabling them to address various practical and theoretical problems. This module follows a laboratory-intensive programme that is supplemented by lectures, discussions and written assignments to ensure that the technical work, as well as their applications are fully understood. The module is further supplemented with the opportunity for students to utilise their knowledge of all the techniques covered in the laboratorium to design a practical for third year Genetics students called the EX-BOX project.

712 (8) Genetics: Plant Physiology

Compulsory module: This module is designed to introduce students to concepts important in understanding the molecular basis for plant growth and development, and deals with i) how plants acquire sufficient nutrients and water and how this relates to crop productivity; and ii) plant phytohormone signalling, in order to understand how plants integrate environmental signals to modulate their growth. The module is based on primary literature i.e. scientific papers, so students will be expected to read and assimilate information from these, as well as to discuss what they have read in facilitated group sessions.

713 (8) Genetics: Integrated Plant Metabolism

Elective module: This module is designed to introduce students to concepts important in understanding the biochemical and molecular basis for aspects of plant metabolism. Control mechanisms within pathways and the production of industrially important molecules will be emphasised. The two section of the course first deals with how plants fix carbon and synthesise sucrose and how this relates to crop productivity. The second part deals with the synthesis of important industrial polymers such as cellulose and starch. The module is based on primary literature i.e. scientific papers, so students will be expected to read and assimilate information from these, as well as to discuss what they have read in facilitated group sessions.

721 (8) Genetics: Biostatistics

Elective module: During this course you will learn how to perform many different types of statistical analyses using the R software. The software will be available on campus computers.

The prerequisites for this course require that you have already passed at least a set of introductory statistics courses such as Biometry 212 and Biometry 242. Students who have not yet completed these prerequisite modules should consult with the lecturer before registering for Biometry 721. Students who have completed their undergraduate degrees at other universities will have to complete and pass an admission test before their registration for Biometry 721 will be finalised.

716 (8) Genetics: Genomics

Compulsory module: A good understanding of the genome, as well as the effective analysis thereof, is a prerequisite to succeed in plant, microbe and animal improvement, especially considering matters associated with the complexity of genomes. This module aims to improve your understanding of the fundamentals in plant genetics and genomics. Concepts like genetic manipulation, gene regulation and expression, as well as technologies to study these concepts, will be discussed.

721 (8) Genetics: Scientific and Proposal Writing

Compulsory module: This module aims to introduce Biotechnology Honours students to the non-experimental aspects of scientific research, such as the skill of scientific writing, the planning and writing of a literature review for a research project. To achieve this, students will be introduced and exposed to the reading of scientific literature, the interpretation and summarising of scientific literature, the conceptualisation of a literature review of their proposed Honours research project, the planning and writing of such a research proposal, and the oral presentation of a research proposal.

722 (8) Genetics: Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement

Compulsory module: Plant breeding objectives; reproduction in plants; cell and tissue culture; breeding strategies for self- and cross-pollinating crops; the utilisation of hybrid vigour; mutation breeding; breeding for insect and disease resistance; variations in chromosome number and its exploitation in breeding programmes; plant breeders' rights.

​790 (64) Genetics: Honours Project in Plant Biotechnology

Compulsory module: The research project is the main component of the Honours programme. This module involves the planning, execution, analysis and reporting of hands-on practical research which is performed within an established research group. 

While these projects are often related to other ongoing projects within the Institute for Plant Biotechnology, it is up to the student to read widely around the topic, in preparation for:

·        the project proposal (oral presentation)

·        the project write-up

·        the final project presentation (oral)

Once the research is underway, you will need to document your findings accurately and describe the methods/techniques employed in your study.  You are strongly encouraged to start preparing your project dissertation from early on within the module.  You will have to submit a draft of your dissertation to your supervisor well before the final submission date so that you can timeously receive comments and suggestions for improvement.