Student Spotlight: Sarah Placek, OMS-I

Sarah Placek, OMS-I

Sarah Placek, OMS-I

First-year ICOM student, Sarah Placek, contributed to recently-published research on the significance of thermal abiotic emission of CO2 and CH4 from leaf litter as it relates to photodegradation. Student Doctor Placek conducted this research alongside Dr. Thomas A. Day at her alma mater, Arizona State University.

The study, published in Ecosphere, an Ecological Society of America journal, is available to read at the following link:

Q: What does this research entail?

A: This research is about how plants decompose in drylands environments, like the Sonoran desert, where I’m from. It specifically looks at how temperature causes plant leaves, that are on the desert floor, to break down. What we found was, while some people said it was going to be a big driver of plant decomposition, it was actually a really minor pathway. The decomposition is more focused from sunlight as opposed to temperature. 

Q: How did you become involved in this research project?

A: The research lab I was involved with at Arizona State University was doing research on photodegradation. I was really interested in it because it was something kind of different, and I had the opportunity to help out in small ways at first — weighing things and sorting leaf litter. As I did more, I started to discover that there was differences between some of our experiences because of the temperature and how things were stored. From there, they gave me my own project, which was figuring out how much of a contribution it was. 

Q: What does it feel like to be published?

A: It’s my first time being published and I feel very excited. It’s a long time coming, but when you do research, you have to get it right and you have to know that it’s right before you can present it to the public. So I’m very excited, and I know that it’s really worthwhile research, too. 

Q: Do you plan on pursuing research projects at ICOM?

A: Yes, I just got started with Dr. Launa Lynch’s research project. The team is really great, and we’re going to start collecting data on how vaping affects bone growth. I think research is really important. I think it broadens our horizons and it’s going to make us better physicians.