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First postgraduate degree in Forensic Genetics in Africa

19 March 2010
 
At the launch were, from the left, front: Ms Christa Swanepoel (Applied Biosystems), Ms Karen Ehlers (Department of Genetics, UFS), Dr Carolyn Hancock and Ms Vanessa Lynch (both from DNA Project). Middle row: Dr. Sphie Mukwana (Director: Biotech Forensics, Kenya), Mr Pierre Joubert (Director: SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory) and Prof. Johan Spies (Chairperson: Department of Genetics, UFS). Back row: Mr Izak van Niekerk (Southern Cross Biotechnologies) and Mr Loen Ehlers (National Prosecution Authority).
Photo: Stephen Collett


The Department of Genetics at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently launched the first postgraduate degree offered by a tertiary institution in Forensic Genetics in Africa.

“We are at the beginning of something special. The UFS has developed the programme with the aim of providing graduates with the skills and knowledge they would require to work in the field of forensic biology. These graduates will be the first group of professionals that have undergone tertiary training in order to assist in the resolution of crime through forensic science in South Africa. It has also put the UFS in the forefront of training of this nature,” said Prof. Johan Spies, the departmental chairperson.

According to Mr Pierre Joubert, Director at the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) in Pretoria, students trained in this programme would easily be employed by the FSL since they would have the appropriate applied and technical training in forensic science.

Currently the FSL has no personnel with degrees in forensic science in its employ. It employs B.Sc. graduates in the fields of microbiology, genetics, molecular biology and biochemistry as forensic analysts. These employees then go through an extensive supplementary training programme for about six months.

Dr Sophie Mukwana, Director of Biotech Forensics in Kenya, said the launch of this programme in South Africa would benefit African countries like Kenya which relied on the USA for this kind of training. She said they hoped to partner with the UFS in this venture.

Applied Biosystems and Southern Cross Biotechnology have donated the necessary equipment to the UFS for this training.

“It is not only important that students should see the equipment but they should also know how to operate it,” said Ms Vanessa Lynch, from the DNA Project.

The DNA Project, in conjunction with the FSL and the UFS, has developed the learning materials which will be presented at the UFS from 2011.

Media Release
Issued by: Mangaliso Radebe
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2828
Cell: 078 460 3320
E-mail: radebemt@ufs.ac.za  

19 March 2010