LGS Student Spotlight | Yemko Pryor

By Karina Antenucci

Yemko Pryor

Laney Graduate School Genetics and Molecular Biology PhD candidate Yemko Pryor is the only student in her program who is in the Department of Anthropology. Working in Assistant Professor John Lindo's ancient DNA lab in the field of biological anthropology, Pryor is studying the evolutionary histories of indigenous populations in South America, specifically those living in or near the Andes.

"I didn't think I'd be in anthropology, but recently discovered biological anthropology and it fit in line with my history and science interests. I've been able to fit a genetics perspective into my program outside of a medical/health standpoint, which is very different," said Pryor, who is working toward a May 2025 graduation.

This kind of flexibility to create her own nonconventional research space and the interdisciplinary opportunities at Emory are some of the reasons Pryor chose it for her doctoral studies. A self-proclaimed people person, she also liked that she was going to have a larger cohort size.

"Even as a busy graduate student, I enjoy having opportunities to make connections with other grad students. I haven't seen that across the board at different universities," said the Chicago native, who attended undergraduate studies at Oberlin College, where she double majored in Africana Studies and Biology.

During her time at Emory, Pryor has enjoyed doing community work as a queer community facilitator for The Office of LGBT Life and supporting its campus initiatives, including holding discussions and arranging activities.

The Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow through The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is also a Laney EDGE (Emory Diversifying Graduate Education) fellow and ambassador. She works with Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement Dr. Amanda Marie James, helping to establish, maintain, and enhance a diverse gradate community at Emory.

"It's been really fun. I don't think I would have had as dynamic of a community-building experience elsewhere. Going to EDGE events created the foundation of my community at Emory," Pryor said.

In fact, she has so enjoyed recruiting students from around the country this year through EDGE that Pryor has realized this is the career path she wishes to pursue upon graduation.

"My ideal job would be to continue doing more DEI-centric work in the recruitment and retention of diverse individuals in higher education. I've realized this is where I want to land in the academic sphere," she said.

Pryor recently became a 2023 Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society scholar for exemplifying academic and personal excellence and her intention to pursue an academic career with a future commitment to advancing diversity, equity, access, and inclusion in higher education.