Training more plant experts with a new botany minor

The NUS Department of Biological Sciences (DBS) is launching a new botany minor in August 2023 for the Academic Year 23/24. The undergraduate minor programme, jointly developed by NUS and the National Parks Board (NParks), aims to increase the number of local flora experts in Singapore. 

The minor will help augment NUS graduates’ specialisation in botany. It will be also be an asset to students keen to work in this area, especially as Singapore aims to add about 200ha of nature parks and start species recovery for 100 more plant species by 2030, and plant experts are also needed for urban farms to boost food security.

Students taking the minor programme can select from nine existing NUS courses – Plants and Society, Comparative Botany, Vegetation and Plant Diversity of Southeast Asia, Natural Heritage of Singapore, Biodiversity, Fundamentals of Plant Biology, Tropical Horticulture, Fungal Biology and Plant Growth and Development. Students need to take and pass five of the courses, of which three are compulsory.

Dr Amy Choong, Senior Lecturer at NUS DBS, coordinates the minor programme at NUS and teaches a few of the courses under the minor. In her tropical horticulture classes, Dr Choong’s students learn to grow and nourish Chinese mustard while fending off pests and weeds, which are relevant skills for careers in urban farming.

Another highlight of the minor is the course on vegetation and plant diversity of Southeast Asia conducted by NParks at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The lessons involve visits to the fernery, ginger garden and herbarium to see how plant specimens are preserved for research, and field trips to identify plants in forested areas. The classes are taught by Dr Chong Kwek Yen, senior researcher at the Singapore Botanic Gardens and Adjunct Assistant Professor at NUS DBS, who is NParks’ coordinator for the minor.

Final year life sciences student Lim Yi He, who has taken many of the botany classes at DBS, said, “The minor will benefit many of my juniors who wish to pursue a botany-related career. I hope the new programme will encourage students to give botany a chance.”

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