As a tenure track assistant professor, I am moving my research agenda forward. Furthermore, I expect to better understand how new digital media technologies can positively affect the creative design process.


The Virtual Body in a Design Exercise: A Conceptual Framework for Embodied Cognition. 

In design education, immersive virtual reality (VR) has grown as a visualization and interaction tool. Nonetheless, little research has been done on how individuals self-perception within VR affects their performance. This self-awareness is carried out using avatars that depict the virtual body through multiple points of view. This article assessed three different conditions of virtual body within a design exercise to better understand how these affected idea generations and spatial skills. To do so, an embodiment-cognition (ECO) framework to evaluate the influence of the virtual body in immersive VR environments was developed. The designed theoretical framework relies on the concept of embodiment and its relevance to situated cognition. Research has supported how cognition connects the mind and body and the relevance of the individual's interaction with its surroundings to make it meaningful. Likewise, more immersive environments can increase the sensation of presence in VR, allowing individuals to behave more naturally. Also, through the connection with the surroundings, individuals liberate cognitive load, allowing them to relocate cognitive efforts in developing knowledge. General findings support how the use of a more embodied virtual body can elicit higher levels of presence but also increase cognitive load which can ultimately hinder cognition. However, VR interactions aided participants to develop spatial skills and allowed idea generation. Furthermore, the framework proposed can be applied to assess students' cognitive processes beyond the discipline’s boundaries.

Citation: Mejia-Puig, L., & Chandrasekera, T., (2022). "The Virtual Body in a Design Exercise: A Conceptual Framework for Embodied Cognition." The International Journal of Technology and Design Education.


The Presentation of Self in Virtual Reality: A Cognitive Load Study.

The use of virtual reality (VR) in interior design has increased dramatically. Its interactive and visualization benefits are undeniable. Designers, clients, developers, and stakeholders can immerse themselves in future or existing design projects without the need to be physically there. Thanks to more immersive and realistic experiences, the boundaries that separate the physical and the virtual world are becoming nonexistent. Nonetheless, research has focused on the visual characteristics of the virtual space, undermining the consequences for individuals engaged within it. In this study, we assessed the effects on mental workload caused by how individuals visualize themselves in VR using a virtual body (VB). The VB is typically represented by the use of avatars. An experimental setup was carried out with a convenience sample of 72 individuals. Participants interacted in an immersive VR interface with three different conditions of the VB. They were randomly assigned to one of the three conditions and engaged for a period of approximately 20 minutes in tackling a design-like activity. Data were collected through self-report questionnaires in addition to a psychophysiological device accounting for the cognitive load (CL) and task difficulty. The statistical analysis supported differences in CL between conditions. A more detailed visual representation of the VB increased the sensation of being there but contributed extraneous CL that can hinder the task at hand. The findings of this study can guide interior designers in selecting the type of VB they should use for their immersive VR experiences.

Mejia-Puig, L. and Chandrasekera, T. (2022), The Presentation of Self in Virtual Reality: A Cognitive Load Study. Journal of Interior Design.


How Does a Retail Environment Affect Perceived Retail Crowding?: A Study Using Virtual Reality.

Perceived crowding is a psychological state that occurs when a person’s demand for space exceeds the supply. Perceived Retail Crowding (PRC) can therefore be understood as an individual’s demand for space in a retail environment. PRC consists of two dimensions: human crowding perceptions and spatial crowding perceptions. Research has shown PRC negatively affects shopping satisfaction. In this study, two different retail environment layouts (linear and curvilinear) were developed using virtual reality (VR) to understand the difference in perceived spatial crowding in these two environments. Twenty participants were randomly assigned to one of two VR environments and spent approximately five to seven minutes immersed and navigating the environment. The participants’ emotional responses were recorded through a functional Near-Infrared spectroscopy (fNIR) device. They were also provided with a questionnaire to assess their emotional responses to the environment. PRC was assessed through questionnaire responses and correlated with fNIR readings. The results of this study evidence that linear, in comparison to curvilinear interior layouts, increased PRC and cognitive load (CL), ultimately negatively affecting shopping satisfaction. These findings contribute to better understandings of the influence of design attributes and physical characteristics in retail environments. The main limitations of this study were the sample size and the lack of product exhibition on the shelves.

Citation: Mejia-Puig, L., Korneva, E., & Chandrasekera, T., (2022). "How Does a Retail Environment Affect Perceived Retail Crowding?: A Study Using Virtual Reality." The International Journal of Architectonic, Spatial, and Environmental Design 17 (1): 151-165. doi:10.18848/2325-1662/CGP/v17i01/151-165.


Primary Generators: The Influence of Digital Modeling Environments in the Creative Design Process.

This paper explored how digital media tools in Geometric Modeling Environments (GME) and Parametric Design Environments (PDE) affect the creative process. Primary generators are identified as creativity sparks which enhance the design process. The occurrence of primary generators has been previously studied through the action of sketching. According to Goldschmidt, sketching generates reflection over the generated ideas moving forward the creative process. Nevertheless, sketching has been gradually replaced by digital media tools considered restrictive to the creative process due to the lack of attributes required for reflection. With the evolution of digital media tools, Geometric Modeling Environments (GME) and Parametric Design Environments (PDE) have opened the possibility for attributes such as multiplicity and ambiguity within the design process. Using protocol analysis as an empirical research method, this study assessed the occurrence of primary generators in GME and PDE. Differences in creative processes between the two studied digital environments were highlighted.

Citation: Mejia, L. A., & Arango, H. D. (2019). Primary Generators: The Influence of Digital Modeling Environments in the Creative Design Process. International Journal of Virtual and Augmented Reality (IJVAR), 3(2), 11-22.


Effect of Degrees of Freedom on the Sense of Presence Generated by Virtual Reality (VR) Head-Mounted Display Systems: A Case Study on the Use of VR in Early Design Studios.

The purpose of this research was to explore the use of virtual reality (VR) in early design studios. In this research project, two different types of Head-Mounted Display (HMD) systems were used. One type of HMD provided six degrees of freedom and the other HMD provided three degrees of freedom. The research findings provide comparison on the functionality of the different types of HMDs and the sense of presence in VR environments. Sense of presence is defined as the sense of “being
there” in a computer-simulated environment. The outcomes of this research are (a) development of a new presence questionnaire that focuses on newer VR systems and (b) understanding student perception of using VR in design projects.

Citation: Chandrasekera, T., Fernando, K., & Puig, L. (2019). Effect of Degrees of Freedom on the Sense of Presence Generated by Virtual Reality (VR) Head-Mounted Display Systems: A Case Study on the Use of VR in Early Design Studios. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 47(4), 513-522.


Unexpected Discoveries and their
Enhancement of the Design Process.

The design process has evolved with the inclusion of technology, affecting the creative process. Digital media tools have become for design studios and educational facilities a setting for idea representation, development and communication within the design process. The evolution of digital
media tools has shifted from two-dimensional applications to more diverse and flexible threedimensional scenarios. The inclusion of parameters as modelling attributes give designers new possibilities by which they can enhance their creativity and idea generation processes. The purpose of
this study was to identify unexpected discoveries as milestones for creativity within two digital media tools; Geometric Modelling Environments (GME) and Parametric Design Environments (PDE). A
protocol analysis study was conducted between the two digital environments to comprehend the design process. The level of creativeness of each design outcome was contrasted with the digital
environment used.

Citation: Mejia, L. A., Arango, H. D., & Chandrasekera, T. (2018). Unexpected Discoveries and their Enhancement of the Design Process. In DS 93: Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2018), Dyson School of Engineering, Imperial College, London. 6th-7th September 2018 (pp. 230-235).


Here you can find a brief description of the research tools and topics I have been building upon to conduct my research.


Physiological Tools

Physiological tools such as fNIR, skin conductivity and heart rate monitors to correlate with psychometric tools.


Protocol Analysis

Use of recordings for analysis through coding schemes. Efficient method to analyze the design process and creativity.


Virtual and Augmented Reality

Development of virtual and augmented reality educational tools for design research.

Conference Presentations

Some pictures of my latest conference presentations.

Visit my Portfolio

A small view into some of my academic work

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