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John Kiss to receive Benjamin Harrison Medallion

04/11/2012

John Kiss
John Kiss, Distinguished Professor and chair of botany, will receive Miami University's prestigious Benjamin Harrison Medallion during the May 5 commencement ceremony. The announcement was made during faculty assembly April 11.

Kiss is internationally known for his research in botany and space biology, in particular his research on gravity perception mechanisms in plants. He is “a faculty member who has achieved impressive global stature,” commented one nominator, “and yet continues to contribute locally in significant and personal ways.”

His prolific research activity has been funded by $5 million from more than a dozen major funding agencies in the sciences, including NASA, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. His research has resulted in 89 peer reviewed scientific articles — many of which have high impact in the fields of gravitropism and phototropism research — 122 book reviews and close to 200 invited talks.

He has held leadership positions in national professional associations including serving as president of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology (ASGSB). He was honored by the ASGSB in 2010 with the Orr E. Reynolds Distinguished Service Award for service ‘above and beyond’ the call of duty, especially for his efforts in education, outreach and support of undergraduates and graduate students in independent research.

In 2010 Kiss led a team of botanists — including Richard Edelmann, director of Miami’s Center for Advanced Microscopy and Imaging, and Katherine Millar, current postdoctoral fellow. They received the 2010 NASA Ames Honor Award for their research, Tropi-2 (see sidebar). Kiss and his team were also honored by NASA in 2007 for their work on Tropi-1.

Kiss, who joined Miami in 1993, has also been recognized for excellence in teaching and research with many awards at Miami: He was named a University Distinguished Professor in 2011; a University Distinguished Scholar in 2006; a Distinguished Scholar of the Graduate Faculty in 2005; and in 1997 he received the Alumni Enrichment Award from the Miami University Alumni Association.

His professional reviewers concur that Kiss has established himself as the current international authority on plant biology research in space.

At Miami, his nominators state that Kiss’ mentoring and advising of undergraduates reflects his “engagement, skill and dedication to students and science” and that his “charismatic personality contributes to his lasting impact on students’ and colleagues’ lives across campus.”

The Harrison Medallion is presented to members of Miami’s faculty or staff who have made outstanding contributions to education. It is named for the 1852 Miami graduate who was president of the United States from 1889-1893.

Space-based research

The Tropi-2 research involved two six-day experiments on the International Space Station (ISS): it traveled to the ISS on the space shuttle Endeavor in Feb. 2010 and returned on the Discovery in April 2010.

Kiss and his team have sent six plant-growth experiments to the International Space Station (ISS) since 1996 and they have additional experiments in development for the ISS: three more in the next three years.

The space-based experiments focus on how light and gravity affect plant growth, with a goal of determining the potential use of plants as a food source during prolonged human time in space.

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