October 14, 1957 -
Freda Porter is among the small number of American Indian women who have earned a Ph.D. in mathematics. A member of the Lumbee tribe, she was born in Lumberton, North Carolina. In 1978 she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in applied mathematics from Pembroke State University (part of the University of North Carolina institutions, it officially became the University of North Carolina at Pembroke in 1996). After completing an IBM Graduate Internship Program, she entered North Carolina State University where she earned a Masters in Applied Mathematics with a computer science minor in 1981. While married and raising a family, she commuted to Duke University where she received her Ph.D. in 1991 in applied mathematics and computational sciences with a dissertation on "A numerical study of propagation of singularities for semilinear hyperbolic systems" [Abstract] written under the direction of Michael Reed.
After receiving her degree, Porter began teaching mathematics at Pembroke State University. She then taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill while doing post-doctoral work in applications of mathematical models to the study of groundwater contamination. She was the co-author of a paper in the SIAM Review on "Estimating the rate of natural bioattenuation of ground water contaminants by a mass conservation approach" [Abstract]. In 1998 she also earned a Water Pollution Control System Operators Certification at North Carolina State University.
Porter was a member of the Mathematical Association of America's Committee of Minority Participation in Mathematics from 1994 to 1999. In 1994-95 she was a consultant to the NASA-Langley Research Center as an ASEE Faculty Fellow. She has also served as a consultant to the Environmental Protection Agency Ecosystems Research Division in Athens, Georgia. In 1996 Porter was one of 20 contemporary African-American, Latino, and Native-American scientists profiled in the PBS documentary "Break Through: The Changing Face of Science In America." In 2004 she was appointed to a three year term on the University of North Carolina at Pembroke Board of Trustees.
Porter founded the UNC-Pembroke chapter of AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society) in 1991. In a 1997 interview she described the purpose of this organization:
"Through its educational programs, AISES provides opportunities for American Indians and Alaska natives to pursue degrees in science, engineering, business and other academic areas. The trained professionals then become technologically informed leaders within Indian communities. AISES' goal is to be a catalyst for the advancement of American Indians as they seek to become self-reliant and self-determined members of society."
For three years Porter was the director of a summer mathematics and science program for American Indian ninth-graders at the University of North Carolina that was sponsored by AISES.
Since 1997 Freda Porter has been President and CEO of Porter Scientific, Inc., in Pembroke, North Carolina. According to Porter, "Porter Scientific is an environmental and information technology services firm with extensive experience addressing environmental issues at DoD facilities, other government organizations and industry. Porter Scientific has experience with pollution prevention, resource conservation, training and outreach, geovisualization, regulatory compliance, information technology and environmental engineering. The staff also has a high level of experience with technology transition, sustainable installations policy and procedures, military aircraft throughput enhancement, as well as homeland security and National defense programs."
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Freda Porter