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R e s e a r c h

Below you'll find summaries of my past and current research projects. Check out my Research Blog for more detailed descriptions of what I'm currently working on.

  • Digital Tools for Ethnographers - Ethnographic methods are now used more and more in the evaluation of technological systems. Ethnographic researchers collect data in many heterogeneous forms - digital video, audio, photographs, paper-based notes, desktop recordings, system statistics, etc. There is a great need to develop tools to help ethnographers deal with the increasing amounts of data they must collect and analyze during the course of an investigation. To this end, I am working on several projects to develop digital tools to help ethnographers do research.
    • Exploring Digital Pen-Based Audio Recordings for Supporting Ethnographic Inquiries
    • Developing a FTIR Multitouch Tabletop Interface for Collaborative Analysis of Video Data in Ethnographic Research

  • Ph.D. Dissertation - "An Ethnographic Investigation of the Evolving Dynamics of a Learning Ecology" - In the past decade, collaborative technology has become widely integrated into many professional training settings, yet at present we lack a complete understanding of how new technology alters networks of social and technology-mediated interactions present in such environments.
        To this end, I engaged in a multi-year ethnography-for-design study in a dental hygiene training program in San Diego, CA. In this research project, I performed an ethnographic analysis of instructional practices used in hands-on, clinical instruction, and participated in the design of a new clinical training laboratory. The new lab was equipped with embedded digital media technology, such as flat-panel monitors, computer workstations and overhead cameras, through which students and instructors could access a video blogging ('vlogging') system while in the clinic.
    • Becvar, L.A., and Hollan, J. (2008, in preparation) "An Ethnographic Investigation of the Evolving Dynamics of a Learning Ecology." International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning.
    • Becvar, L.A. (2008, in preparation) "
    • Becvar, L.A. (2007) "Social Impacts of a Video Blogging System for Clinical Instruction." Student Research Competition: Conference on Computer Human Interaction (CHI), San Jose, CA (April).
    • Becvar, L.A. (2006) "A Collaborative Video Blogging System Used in Hands-On Professional Training" Poster: UBICOMP Conference on Ubiquitous Computing, Laguna Beach, California (September)
    • Becvar, L.A. ( 2006) "Video and Image-Based Reflective Learning Tools for Professional Training Environments." Talk, Poster: Doctoral Consortium, Conference on Computer Human Interaction (CHI), Montreal, Canada (April)
    • Becvar, L.A. (2005) "Video and Image-Based Reflective Learning Tools for Professional Training Programs." Doctoral Consortium, European Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Work (ECSCW), Paris, France (September).

  • Hands as Molecules: Investigating Gesture in Scientific Thinking - In this research, I examined how representational gestures made by scientists during collaborative discussions in a biochemistry lab are used as cognitive artifacts for formulating scientific theory. By analyzing digital video of lab meetings and interviews with scientists, I found that representational gestures serve to reference and animate portions of existing material structure such as models, diagrams, and graphs. Representational gestures appear to play a significant role in how the scientific group both conceptualize and communicate theories about molecules.
        I believe that representational gestures operate as instantiations of essential spatiodynamic features that are not efficiently conveyed in other modalities, like language and graphical representations, and as such, are vital resources for shaping theoretical understandings in collaborative, face-to-face scientific activity. Gestures may also serve to package theoretical conceptions into semiotic entities that can be used symbolically in the 'community of practice' (Lave 1991).

  • NMR Structure Analysis of Thrombomodulin - Prior to entering my Ph.D. work in cognitive science, I was in a graduate biochemistry program at UC San Diego, where I was awarded a fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education. During this time I worked in the lab of Dr. Elizabeth Komives, where I did resesarch on the structure and activity of thrombomodulin, a protein involved in blood clotting. I used NMR methods to decode the structure of fragments of thrombomodulin that had been mutated or oxidized at one site. These studies showed how a very small change in the protein can lead to vast changes in thrombomodulin's activity.
        My experience in this program taught me about designing and performing independent research, working in collaboration with other students, and the power of good writing and communication skills when presenting research findings. However, I found my most passionate interests were in doing science outside of the traditional "laboratory," instead of research "at the bench." I realized that the research questions that most excited me were in the domain of human cognition: human beings and entire cognitive systems, and not on the level of proteins and molecules.

  • Lumitection: A Biological Assay for Environmental Toxin Detection - LUMITECTION is a bioassay used for the detection and identification of bioactive compounds from environmental samples such as soil, water, and plant samples. I started doing research on LUMITECTION in high school, and the project won the Grand Prize at the 1992 International Science and Engineering Fair (see article). I continued working on Lumitection in my undergraduate years during the summer, along with my father, Dr. James Becvar, and we applied for two patents on the method that were later issued in 2000 and 2002 (US Pat. No. 6,340,572; 6,017,722). Recently, Chromadex, LLC has licenced the patents, and is in the process of developing a detection kit using LUMITECTION technology. My father and I have also been working on developing extensions to the original patents, and were recently awarded a third patent, (U.S. Pat No. 6,673,563). Two more extensions are in the pipeline.
        In 2005, we incorporated a business together, called LumiTexas. I'm the Vice President.
    • Becvar, L.A. and Becvar, J. (1995) "A Bioassay for the Detection, Identification, and Quantitation of Toxicants" Poster presented at the Bioluminescence and Chemiluminescence Symposium, Maui, HI.
    • Becvar, L.A. and Becvar, J. (2000) "Luminous bacteria and methods for the isolation, identification and quantitation of toxicants." U.S. Pat. No. 6,017,722.
    • Becvar, L.A. and Becvar, J. (2002) "Kit for the isolation, identification and quantitation of toxicants." U.S. Pat. No. 6,340,572.
    • Becvar, L.A. and Becvar, J. "Luminous Bacteria and Methods for the Isolation, Identification and Quantification of Toxicants" U.S. Pat. No. 6,673,563.