John Z. Kiss Hired as New Dean of UM Graduate School

John Kiss

John Kiss

… Assumes duties Sept. 1; sets goal for school to continue progress.

OXFORD, Miss. – John Z. Kiss, distinguished professor and chair of botany at Miami University in Ohio, is the new dean of the University of Mississippi Graduate School.

His appointment begins Sept. 1, pending approval from the Board of Trustees of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

Kiss served 19 years as a faculty member at MU and is internationally known for his research in botany and space technology, particularly for his studies of gravity and light perception mechanisms in plants. His prolific research activity has garnered $5 million in funding from more than a dozen agencies in the sciences, including NASA, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Morris Stocks, UM provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said he’s pleased that Kiss is coming to the university.
“Dr. Kiss is a distinguished scholar with a record of commitment to graduate education,” Stocks said. “He will bring new perspectives and experience to our Graduate School and is committed to working with all graduate programs across the university.”

Maurice Eftink, former graduate school dean and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, said he is confident that Kiss can help the school adapt to the challenges it faces.

“I must say that it is difficult to give up the graduate deanship, which is one of the most rewarding jobs on campus,” Eftink said. “But this is made easier by the selection of Dr. John Kiss, who has impressed me with his emphasis on scholarship and with his eagerness to develop a strong rapport with our students, staff and faculty.  I welcome Dr. Kiss to our graduate education community.”

Kiss said his vision is to promote excellence in graduate education in all disciplines.

“The position of graduate dean is an outstanding opportunity since the university is on a positive trajectory,” Kiss said. “I believe that the quality of graduate education is important for the overall health of the academic side of the university.”

In his new post, Kiss will assist with fundraising, resource management and faculty development, as well as research and curriculum matters.

“I also will continue to seek ways to expand interdisciplinary collaborations among graduate programs since these approaches will provide the best opportunities for our students,” Kiss said. “I was very impressed with the students, faculty, staff and administration and sense there is a strong commitment to graduate education.”

Kiss holds a doctoral degree from the Rutgers University in botany and plant physiology. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Georgetown University.

Besides being botany chair at MU, Kiss is vice chair of the International Committee on Space Research. He also was deputy scientific organizer for “Gravity-related effects in plants” at the COSPAR meeting in Germany and served as main scientific organizer for the organization’s meetings in Paris and Japan.

Kiss recently received MU’s prestigious Benjamin Harrison Medallion and in 2006 was named a University Distinguished Scholar. In 1997, he received the Alumni Enrichment Award from the MU Alumni Association.

Project director for TROPI – or “Analysis of a Novel Sensory Mechanism in Root Phototropism,” an experiment on the International Space Station to investigate the growth and development of plant seedlings under various gravity and lighting combinations spaceflight – from 2004 to 2010, he oversaw 36 scientists and engineers at four NASA centers and two centers of the European Space Agency. These efforts resulted in two successful projects on the ISS.

He has held leadership positions in national professional associations, including serving as president of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology. Kiss 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 undergraduate and graduate students in independent research.

Kiss has co-authored 93 peer-reviewed scientific articles and 128 book reviews and has given nearly 200 invited talks. His wife, Helen, will assume a position in the UM Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. Their son, Stephen, is a junior English education major at Miami University.

Created in 1903, the UM Graduate School is dedicated to the preparing students for effective leadership and service in increasingly diverse schools, homes and communities. Its mission is to provide leadership, coordination and administrative structure to support the university’s graduate programs.

To view Kiss’s Web pages, go to and More information on his spaceflight reaearch is found at

For more information about the UM Graduate School, call 662-915-7474 or go to