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John Z. Kiss

Professor | Biomedical Engineering and Science

Provost & Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs | L3Harris Professor

Contact Information

Personal Overview

John Z. Kiss is a plant space biologist. He has served as a Principal Investigator on eight spaceflight projects that have involved NASA as well as the European Space Agency and Roscosmos.  His recent research focuses on how gravity and light responses influence each other in plants in order to better understand the cellular signaling mechanisms involved in plant tropisms—directed plant movements in response to external stimuli. His group also is interested in the role of red light as an environmental cue capable of counteracting the adverse effects of the lack of a gravity vector during spaceflight on plant growth and development. Learning how plants adapt to weightlessness and low-gravity environments is important for determining the ability of vegetation to provide a complete, sustainable, dependable and economical means for human life support in space. The ability of plants to provide a source of food and to recycle carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen may prove critical for astronauts who will live in space for months at a time. In addition, in the long term, this new knowledge of how plants grow and develop at a molecular level should lead to significant advances in agriculture on Earth.

Educational Background

Post-doctoral Fellow, Space Biology, Ohio State University

Ph.D. Botany & Plant Physiology, Rutgers University

B.S. Biology & History, Georgetown University

Selected Publications

Hughes A.M., J.P. Vandenbrink J.Z. Kiss. 2023. Efficacy of the Random Positioning Machine as a terrestrial analogue to microgravity in studies of seedling phototropism. Microgravity Science and Technology 35:43.

Bowman R.N., C.P. McKay, J.Z. Kiss. 2022. Design of spaceflight hardware for plant growth in a sealed habitat for experiments on the Moon. Gravitational and Space Research 10:37-44

Hughes A.M., J.Z. Kiss. 2022. -Omics studies of plant biology in spaceflight: A critical review of recent experiments. Frontiers in Astronomy & Space Sciences

Shymanovich T., J.P. Vandenbrink, R. Herranz, F.J. Medina, J.Z. Kiss. 2022. Spaceflight studies identify a gene encoding an intermediate filament involved in tropism pathways. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry 171:191-200.

Medina F.J., A. Manzano, R. Herranz, J.Z. Kiss. 2022. Red light enhances plant adaptation to
spaceflight and Mars g-Levels. Life 12:1484.

Shymanovich T., J.Z. Kiss. 2022. Conducting plant experiments in space and on the Moon. Methods in Molecular Biology 2368:165-198.

Aronne G., L.W.F.  Muthert, L.G. Izzo, L.E. Romano, M. Iovane, F. Capozzi, A. Manzano, M. Ciska, R. Herranz, F.J Medina,  J.Z. Kiss, J. J.W.A. van Loon. 2022. A novel device to study altered gravity and light interactions in seedling tropisms. Life Sciences in Space Research 32: 8-16.

Villacampa J., M. Ciska, A. Manzano, J.P. Vandenbrink, J.Z. Kiss, R. Herranz, F.J. Medina. 2021. From spaceflight to Mars g-levels: Adaptive response of A. thaliana seedlings in a reduced gravity environment is enhanced by red light photostimulation. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 22:899.

Manzano A., A. Villacampa, J. Sáez-Vásquez, J.Z. Kiss, F.J. Medina, R. Herranz. 2020. The importance of Earth reference controls in spaceflight –omics research: Characterization of nucleolin mutants from the Seedling Growth experiments. iScience 23

Shymanovich T., J.Z. Kiss. 2020. Growth and development of ecotypes of Arabidopsis thaliana: Preliminary experiments to prepare for a Moon lander mission. Gravitational and Space Research 8: 18-24

Kiss J.Z., S.C. Wolverton, S.E. Wyatt, K.H. Hasenstein, J.J.W.A. van Loon. 2019. Comparison of microgravity analogs to spaceflight in studies of plant growth and development. Frontiers in Plant Science

Herranz R., J.P. Vandenbrink, A. Villacampa,  A. Manzano, W. Poehlman, F.A. Feltus, J.Z. Kiss, F.J. Medina. 2019. RNAseq analysis of the response of Arabidopsis thaliana to fractional gravity under blue-light stimulation during spaceflight. Frontiers in Plant Science

Vandenbrink J.P., R. Herranz, W. Poehlman, F.A. Feltus, A. Villacampa,  M. Ciska, F.J. Medina, J.Z. Kiss. 2019. RNAseq analyses of Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings after exposure to blue-light phototropic stimuli in microgravity. American Journal of Botany 106: 1466–1476

Lionheart G., J.P. Vandenbrink, J.D. Hoeksema, J.Z. Kiss. 2018. The impact of simulated microgravity on the growth of different genotypes of the model plant Medicago truncatula. Microgravity Science and Technology 30: 491–502

Johnson C.M., A. Subramaniana, S. Pattathil, M.J. Correll, J.Z. Kiss. 2017. Comparative transcriptomics indicate changes in cell wall organization and stress response in seedlings during spaceflight. American Journal of Botany 104: 1219-1231.  

Vandenbrink J.P., R. Herranz, F.J. Medina, R.E. Edelmann, J.Z. Kiss. 2016. A novel blue-light phototropic response is revealed in roots of Arabidopsis thaliana in microgravity. Planta 244:1201–1215

Vandenbrink J.P., J.Z. Kiss. 2016. Space, the final frontier: a critical review of recent experiments performed in microgravity. Plant Science 243:115–119.         

Johnson C.M., A. Subramaniana, R.E. Edelmann, J.Z. Kiss. 2015. Morphometric analyses of petioles of seedlings grown in a spaceflight experiment. Journal of Plant Research 128:1007–1016

Kiss J.Z. 2014. Plant biology in reduced gravity on the Moon and Mars. Plant Biology 16(S1):12-17

Recognition & Awards

2021    International Cooperation Medal, COSPAR (International Committee for Space Research). This medal is awarded to a scientist who has made distinguished contributions to space science and whose work has contributed significantly to the promotion of international scientific cooperation. The IAU has named an asteroid for John Z. Kiss (#8267 Kiss;1986 TX3)

2020    ASGSR Fellow, American Society for Gravitational & Space Research.  In recognition of distinguished scientific and social contributions to the advancement of gravitational & space research in the fields of life and physical sciences in areas of research, education, mentoring, outreach, and professional & public service.

2019    NASA Group Achievement Award for serving as PI on the Seedling Growth series of spaceflight experiments.  Specifically for: “outstanding contributions to enabling exploration, collaborating with ESA, to complete a series of three plant biology payloads on the ISS.”  National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington DC.

2019    Donald R. Kaplan Memorial Lecture Award, Botanical Society of America. Presented to a “leading scholar” in botanical sciences for giving a broad-based seminar on their career research achievements at the annual meetings of the Society.

2017    Founder’s Award, American Society for Gravitational & Space Research.  This award is the highest honor given by the Society for lifelong contributions. It is made to a member of the Society for distinguished scientific contributions to and leadership in the field of gravitational & space research.

2014    NASA Outstanding Public Leadership Medal “for exceptional contributions in spaceflight research in the fundamental biology of plants in support of NASA’s exploration mission.” This medal is awarded for sustained leadership and exceptionally high-impact leadership achievements. As one of NASA's most prestigious medals, leadership excellence was demonstrated in: (1) Achieving Results; (2) Role Model; (3) Leading People; (4) Influencing Change.

2012    Benjamin Harrison Medallion (named for the 1852 Miami graduate who was U.S. President). This highest award to a faculty member recognizes outstanding national contributions to education and other international recognition beyond his field. Miami University.

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