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Latino Trailblazer

Evelyn Miralles

  • Gender: Female
  • University: Lamar University
  • Undergraduate Degree: Computer Graphics
  • University: University of Houston-Clear Lake
  • Undergraduate Degree: Computer and Information Sciences
  • Graduate Degree: MBA in Management of Technologies
  • Hometown: Caracas, Venezuela
  • Organization: University of Houston-Clear Lake
  • Position Title: Associate Vice President, Strategic Information Initiatives and Technology

For years, Evelyn Miralles built virtual reality (VR) technology and used it as a tool to train astronauts. Today, she’s using that experience to train future generations of leaders.

The youngest of five siblings in Caracas, Venezuela, she told Latino Leaders Magazine that her father, a paralegal in the oil industry, was her biggest influence. “Growing up…he never treated his daughters differently from his sons,” she said, adding, “He always supported me saying, ‘You’re going to get a degree, you’re going to college, you’re going to be independent…’”

Pursuing an interest in building and design, she started her college education with a BS in Computer Graphics at Lamar University and a Bachelor of Applied Science in Computer and Information Sciences at the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL). She would later return to UHCL for an MBA in Management of Technologies.

After completing her bachelor’s degrees, she attained a position as a software engineer at NASA’s Integrated Graphics Operations and Analysis Laboratory. Within her first two years at NASA, she was co-author of the Dynamic Onboard Ubiquitous Graphics (DOUG) flight software, which has been used to train both the STS 61 Mission astronauts who repaired the Hubble space telescope, and by the astronauts for every Space Shuttle and ISS mission since 2000. DOUG also remains a vital component of astronaut training.

Her success as a software engineer, and then as lead graphic simulator for NASA, led her to the role of principal software engineer and VR innovator at L3 (now L3Harris), a contractor for NASA’s official astronaut training facility, VRLab. There, she supported the space shuttle and space station programs for spacewalks and robotics operations. In 2016, she became lead VR innovator and chief engineer for CACI International Inc., another contractor with VRLab.

In May 2019, after 27 years in VR and space training, Evelyn left VRLab and transitioned into the world of higher education. She is now associate vice president for strategic information initiatives and technology at her alma mater, UHCL. In that role, she serves as chief strategist for the engagement of educational programs and external partners, identifying high value technologies that support state-of-the-art teaching and learning models, and providing leadership in the areas of science, innovation, and technology. Additionally, she serves as a professional speaker at various programs and conferences, both in the US and abroad.

Her contributions to the world of VR and space training are reflected in the honors she has received. These include NASA’s Exceptional Award for Innovation, which she received for the creation and design of the Engineering DOUG Graphics for Exploration (EDGE) software, and the NASA Flight Safety Award. In 2016, UHCL gave her its Distinguished Alumna Award, and in that same year, she was named one of the “100 Most Inspirational Women in the World” by the BBC, and one of the “Top 20 Most Influential Hispanics in the US” by CNET en Español. She has also been recognized by AWE (Augmented World Expo) as an “influential” and “visionary” woman pioneer in the field of augmented and virtual reality.

Just as her father encouraged her aspirations, Evelyn believes in empowering the next generation, particularly girls, to set and reach education and career goals, even in the face of obstacles. In an interview with Johnson Space Center Roundup Reads, she said, “All students need to be nurtured, and I would like to see girls encouraged to discover their inherent capabilities, skills, and interests. They need to be nurtured even through times of failure.”