Dana Porter, PE, knew from an early age, living and working on her family’s farm in the Texas Panhandle, how agriculture production impacted the world around her.
She later discovered her own path to personally impact agriculture and the world as an agricultural engineering student at Texas A&M University.
Porter is now a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agricultural engineer specializing in water management in Lubbock. Additionally, she is a professor and associate head of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, serving as the department’s AgriLife Extension program leader.
Porter takes leadership role
Porter will soon begin her term as president of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, ASABE, for 2023-2024. She was elected early in 2022, beginning rotation through a three-year term in which she will serve one year each as president elect, president and past president.
ASABE is an international scientific and educational organization dedicated to the advancement of engineering applicable to agricultural, food and biological systems.
A member of the Texas A&M AgriLife High Plains Water Management Team, Porter is recognized for her integrated applied research and extension programs related to agricultural water management and irrigation that emphasize technologies and management for production in areas with a limited quantity and quality of water.
“Agricultural engineers have an incredible impact on the daily lives of millions of people every day,” she said. “We address big picture challenges of water, food, fiber and energy security; processing, packaging and storage of agricultural products; environmental quality; and agricultural safety and health.”
ASABE is positioned to do bigger things
Porter said her goal as president is to help spotlight how agricultural engineers provide essential expertise in a rapidly evolving field. Agricultural engineers are leading innovations in cutting-edge technologies in fields like automated farming, precision agriculture and sustainable production.
She said part of her mission is to assist students and graduates along their professional path to fill critical positions as agriculture continues to evolve.
“Agriculture is continually changing the way it provides products that are critical to us all, and agricultural engineers are spearheading those innovations,” she said.
Porter joined the Texas A&M Student Chapter of ASABE as an undergraduate student. She said her professors strongly encouraged students to join and actively participate in professional organizations.
Membership as a student gave Porter opportunities to develop a broad professional network that opened doors for her career. She also found inspiration from other agricultural engineers working on advanced technologies.
Throughout her career, ASABE has provided a community of peers, venues for helpful feedback on her research, professional development support and opportunities for her to give back to the profession in impactful ways.
Porter recommends students join professional organizations for all the benefits and opportunities that can propel a career and an engineer’s impact on the field.
“Being part of ASABE opened my eyes to what other people in the field were doing outside the department,” she said. “It is about building networks, but it’s so much more. It really is an international network of professionals — and that opens job opportunities, paths for graduate school, a way into industry or consulting, and a way to find mentors and connect with peers. We certainly also get ideas from working on projects together.”
More about Porter
Porter has authored or co-authored more than 60 refereed journal publications, numerous conference presentations and developed a variety of other publications, workshops and products.
Porter earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural engineering from Texas A&M and a doctorate from Mississippi State University in agricultural and biological engineering.
She was inducted as ASABE Fellow in 2017 after 31 years as a member of the organization. Other honors include the Professional Engineering Institute Engineer of the Year award and several of the society’s Educational Aids Blue Ribbon awards.
Porter has served on the society’s Board of Trustees and the ASABE Foundation Board of Trustees and has chaired numerous ASABE committees, including those for engineering licensure and professional ethics.
In addition, Porter has assisted in reviewing and revising standards as well as the Supplied Reference Handbook and Practice Exam for the agricultural and biological engineering professional engineers’ exam.
“I think all of us want to make the world a better place and want to do something we feel has greater value and significance beyond ourselves,” she said. “To me, it’s very obvious that agricultural engineering has that type of impact.”