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16 October 2020 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Supplied
Kyla Dooley, runner-up in this year’s Three-minute thesis competition, wants to pursue a career working alongside police enforcement, using her knowledge of forensics to solve criminal cases and convict perpetrators.

When rapes and sexual assaults are committed, DNA evidence can play a large role in convicting the offenders. DNA evidence collected from sexual crimes can, according to Kyla Dooley, often be tricky to analyse.

Kyla has just completed her master’s degree, specialising in Forensic Genetics, at the University of the Free State (UFS). She not only thrives in this field – graduating at the top of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences in 2018 when she was awarded the Dean’s Medal – but her work also brought her the runner-up position in this year’s Three-minute thesis competition. 

She talked about her research on the use of male-specific DNA in the analysis of DNA evidence collected after crimes of a sexual nature have been committed.

Explaining her research, Kyla elaborates: “In most cases, the victim is female, while the offender is male. Therefore, the evidence is often a mixture of male and female DNA and this can make it difficult to analyse the male DNA and match it to a male suspect.”

She believes the solution to this is to target male-specific DNA in analysis. “This eliminates all female DNA and simplifies the process,” says Kyla.

“Unfortunately, male-specific DNA technology is not currently used in South Africa, because the DNA regions tested to date haven’t shown much success in distinguishing between males in our population,” Kyla points out.

“The goal is now to use DNA evidence, to match it to a suspect, and have the confidence that it came from him and only him. Or else defence lawyers could argue that it came from someone else in the population,” she says.

Improving DNA evidence

Therefore, Kyla’s research focused on evaluating a new group of male-specific DNA regions, which are to be tested yet, to see if it would be a viable option for use in South Africa. 

“I achieved this by collecting DNA samples from men on campus, processing them to obtain DNA profiles, and then determining how well these regions can distinguish between the men. The results of my research demonstrate the potential of these DNA regions to improve the use of DNA evidence when investigating sexual assaults in South Africa,” says Kyla.

She believes her study can play a role in increasing the conviction rate of sexual offenders, which could lead to a reduction in South Africa’s alarmingly high rape statistic. 

“Everyone in South Africa is affected by this horrific crime in some way or another, so the benefits of this would be widespread,” she says.

Solving crimes

Although Kyla will one day pursue further studies, she is ready for the next stage in her life. “I am in the process of applying for jobs and getting ready to dive into the real world. I’ll definitely be pursuing a career working alongside police enforcement to solve criminal cases and convict perpetrators of such crimes. Working for the NYPD in the USA or Scotland Yard in the UK is the ultimate dream job,” she says.

“I chose my field not only because the forensics world absolutely fascinates me, but also because I want to make a difference. I want to play a role in getting justice for those affected by violent crimes. One simple process in a forensic scientist’s everyday routine could be a life changer for a victim of crime,” believes Kyla.

 

 


News Archive

OSM Camerata first place winner in international competition
2017-09-08

Description: Camerata Tags: OSM Camerata, Ictus International Music Competition, Marius Coetzee, Odeion School of Music 

The OSM Camerata with conductors, Xavier Cloete and
Gerhard de Jager received first place in the
University/Conservatory Orchestra category.
Photo: Supplied



The OSM Camerata received first place in the 2017 Ictus International Music Competition for bands and orchestras. Marius Coetzee from the Odeion School of Music at the University of the Free State said: “The award was announced in time for the celebration of the orchestra’s fifth birthday.”

OSM a catalyst for excellence
The OSMC was strategically founded in 2012 by Coetzee as the OSM’s flagship chamber ensemble, with the main objective of creating a catalyst for excellence.

Over the past five years, the OSMC has premiered 15 new works by South African composers specially commissioned for them. Highlights remain its participation in the 13th International Conservatory Festival in St Petersburg Russia, where the ensemble received a standing ovation during a gala concert in the Glazunov Concert Hall, as well as the world première of the Cello Concerto for an African Cellist by South African composer, Hans Huyssen, with South African cellist, Heleen du Plessis as soloist. The CD was released in 2014 on the New Zealand Classical Music label, Ode Records in Auckland, New Zealand and was one of five CDs nominated for the Listeners' Choice Award New York in March 2014.

Competition draws participation from Washington to Bloemfontein

The inaugural year of this annual competition drew applicants from Washington State in the US all the way to Bloemfontein in the Free State. Video submissions were judged and narrowed down to a final round from which prize winners were selected.

The OSM Camerata with conductors, Xavier Cloete and Gerhard De Jager, received first place in the University/Conservatory Orchestra category. 

The competition was founded to highlight the work that music educators, conductors, students, performers and community members make in ensembles at the university, community, youth, high school and middle school levels. 

Competition director, Alex Serio says that “many people do not realise the amount of work that it takes to make these ensembles run. What is more is that most of the public does not realise the level of artistic excellence that can be achieved in these ensembles. Ictus International Music Competition was founded to highlight this level

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