Myra Blanco, director of advancement, partnerships, and outreach at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), has been named the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Contributor of the Year for 2021.

“This year’s class of contributors is a testament to the tremendous work our members do, and we are honored to recognize the contributions they have made to not only SAE, but the mobility industry as a whole,” said Chris Ciuca, vice president of programs at SAE International. “Dr. Blanco is a perfect example of that, and we are proud to present her with this award.”

SAE’s Contributor of the Year is the highest honor bestowed on a volunteer for their contributions to the society. From the nominations, a Top Contributor Class is identified and invited to attend the yearly celebration trip. The Volunteer of the Year is chosen from the Top Contributor Class and announced at the annual awards dinner.

“When I saw the individuals who were part of the class of 2021, I did not expect to win among them,” Blanco said. “It is an honor to be awarded as Contributor of the Year, and I am very grateful to have been grouped with this class.”

As the director of advancement, partnerships, and outreach at the institute, Blanco is responsible for ensuring the quality, design, execution, and interpretation of VTTI’s internal collaborations with other Virginia Tech researchers and externally through corporate, individual, and government relations.

“Myra is integral to the everyday success of VTTI,” said Zac Doerzaph, VTTI executive director. “Her extensive work with transportation research, diversity in the transportation field, and her dedication to mentoring others are just a few examples of why she is so deserving of this prestigious honor.”

Blanco also was selected recently for multiple SAE international campaigns centered around diversity, equity, and inclusion, and she is viewed as a role model for the next generation of automotive and transportation engineers. She was selected to be part of SAE’s DEI Chats where SAE International has conversations each month with members, volunteers, and employees about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the world of mobility. Blanco also had the opportunity to share her story with SAE about growing up in Puerto Rico and where her passion for transportation started.

“Myra’s many contributions have enabled SAE to deliver on the mission of advancing mobility knowledge and solutions and igniting STEM potential in young minds,” said Joy Lancaster, SAE Foundation corporate development and engagement officer. “She is a connector and an outstanding role model for lifelong learning, work-life integration, and resilience to inspire and enable the future growth of SAE across generations.”

In addition to her outreach, Blanco has authored more than 90 scientific articles, technical reports, and book chapters and has secured more than $100 million in sponsored project funding, vehicle donations, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts, and other industry contributions as principial investigator, co-principial investigator, or program manager.

Blanco earned her bachelor’s in industrial engineering from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus, and her master’s and Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering from Virginia Tech.

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