Dr. Laura Thompson enjoys learning about plants and how humans use them as food, fiber, medicine, and decoration. She is currently developing a fiber/dye garden and an ethnobotany garden for Furman University.

Name Title Description


Seminar in Biology

Presentations of current topics in biology by students, faculty, and visiting scientists. Emphasis is on effective oral communication and critical examination of scientific information and ideas.


Foundations of Biology

Introduction to the unifying concepts of biology. Topics include: cell structure and function, metabolism, genetics, evolution, and the diversity of life. Laboratories emphasize an investigative approach. Designed for science majors.


To Live and Let Dye

Introduction to natural plant dyes. History of plant dyes, their usage and importance in culture along with the biology of pigments, fibers, and mordents as they interact to give a brilliant pallet of color. Exploration of plant dyes through investigative skills and personal creativity.



Introduction to the study of inheritance. Topics include: transmission of genes in cellular and organismal reproduction, structure and arrangement of genetic material in the cell, control and function of genes, and population genetics. Equal emphasis given to inheritance patterns and molecular genetics. Laboratories include testing the genetics of Drosophila and other organisms, and basic molecular techniques.


Biochemistry of the Cell

Study of the structure and function of biomolecules in the context of the cell. Topics include: the major biosynthetic and catabolic pathways in the cell and their regulation, protein function, structure, modifications and degradation, enzyme kinetics and selected biochemical techniques. Laboratory work involves current biochemical methods such as protein purification from various types of cells and subsequent enzymatic characterization.


Plant Physiology

Comprehensive exploration of plant physiology, with topics emphasizing photosynthesis and respiration, plant water relations, organic and mineral nutrition, secondary metabolites, xylem and phloem transport, growth/development, and stress physiology. Laboratory exercises have extensive investigative components with open-ended activities.


Applied Plant Science

Introduction to plant biology as it pertains to human society. Topics include: life cycles, structure/function relationships, and uses of plants in society. Emphasis on medicinally and economically important plants. Lab exercises reflect the importance of plants as sources of food, fiber, and medicine.



Travel study course focusing on the study of interrelations between humans, plants, animals, and their environment. A key component is understanding the past, present, and future importance of biodiversity and of change in these interrelations.


Tch Mthds & Mtrls in Biology

Practicum for developing teaching skills in biology, including the laboratory and field work. Topics include planning and preparation, safety and storage, and instruction. Practicum will provide experiences teaching in the university classroom.



Composition, chemistry, digestion, absorption, and metabolism of foods. Other topics include energy balance, food additives, food sensitivities, and the role of diet in development and disease. The animal nutrition topics meet the needs of pre-veterinary students.


Biology for Grades 9-12

Hands-on, inquiry-based activities emphasizing science process skills provide resources to enhance skills and knowledge of the Biology standards for 9th-12th grade SC teachers. No course prerequisites; participants must teach science in a South Carolina public school, grade 9th-12th (or equivalent instructions level special education).

Gandhi writes "Question may be asked how intelligence can be developed through the takli or the spinning wheel when you give him the history of cotton and its connection with civilization itself and take him to the village field where it is grown, and teach him to count the round he spins and the method of finding the evenness and strength of his yarn, you hold his interest and simultaneously train his hands, his eyes and his mind." This is Applied Plant Science. (Gandhi MK 1969 "The Selected Works of Gandhi -- Buniyadi Shiksha - Basic Education ed. by Shirman Narayan Vol 6 The Voice of Truth. Ahmedabad Navajivan Publishing House 544p)

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
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