Skip to Content
HSF Alumni

Dr. Myra Blanco

  • Gender: Female
  • University: University of Puerto Rico
  • University: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • Undergraduate Degree: Industrial engineering
  • Post Graduate Degree: Engineering
  • Graduate Degree: Engineering
  • Position: Director, Center for Public Policy, Partnerships, and Outreach
  • Organization: Virginia Tech Transportation Institute
  • Position: Senior Technical Fellow
  • Company: Daimler Trucks North America

Myra Blanco was raised by her mother, a nurse and single parent, who nurtured her love of education. Her father, who worked as a mechanic and with whom she maintained a connection as she grew older, inspired a love for automobiles and transportation, which would come to guide her career path. 

With the help of HSF, she attended the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez to study Industrial Engineering, and while there, enlisted in the Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps). She subsequently became the first female cadet in a decade, to pass the initiation phase of AFROTC’s affiliated service organization, the Arnold Air Society.

During her undergraduate years, she also joined an otherwise all-male team of engineering students that built a solar-powered car to enter into the US Sunrayce 95 competition. She was ultimately promoted to team captain. After completing her bachelor’s degree, she went on to attend Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), where she earned both a master’s degree and a PhD in Human Factors Engineering. 

Today, Myra is Director of the Center for Public Policy, Partnerships, and Outreach at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and a Senior Technical Fellow at Daimler Trucks North America. The Center conducts research based on scientific approaches that emphasize safety, security, and reliability.

She began her career at Virginia Tech, over twenty years ago, as a Senior Research Associate. She rose through the ranks, eventually becoming Director of the Center for Automated Vehicle Systems, before taking her current position. In addition to her current role, she also serves as the faculty advisor to the Women’s Transportation Seminar chapter at Virginia Tech, which she co-founded to address research findings at the time, that only a small number of women who study engineering go on to pursue careers in the field. 

Myra also chairs the Safety Forum for The Intelligent Transportation Society of America, and is a member of both the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

She was awarded the 2017 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Safety Engineering Award, and the 2013 SAE International J. Cordell Breed Award for Women Leaders. In 2005, she was inducted into the HSF Alumni Hall of Fame, receiving the Brillante award for “personifying limitless potential.” 

She advises students getting ready to graduate college to do an internship and to network. She says these are critical for getting to know potential employers and to learn what they are looking for in job candidates. She also passes along some guidance her mother gave her, about facing challenges, saying, “No matter how tough it gets, you should never surrender!”