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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

Grant encourages and enables more learners to enter into science-related studies and careers
2009-06-26

 
At the launch are, from the left, front: Consolation Mochusi, Graad 12 learner from Heatherdale Secondary School, Alexander Bergman, Grade 10 learner from Grey College Secondary School, Danél Prinsloo, Grade 11 learner from Eunice High School; middle: Ms Lea Koenig, Coordinator: ICT Laboratory of the Qwaqwa Campus, Prof. Daniela Coetzee-Manning, Director: CED; back: Ms Elna Fourie, Development Planner from SANRAL, Prof. Teuns Verschoor, Acting Rector of the UFS, Mr Cobus van Breda, Project Coordinator: CED and Mr Nazir Alli, Chief Executive Officer of SANRAL.
Photo: Stephen Collett


 

The University of the Free State’s (UFS) Centre for Education Development (CED) has this week launched a project on the Main Campus in Bloemfontein.
to enable and encourage more learners to enter into science-related studies and careers.

The grant of R4,5 million over a period of three years was made by the South African National Roads Agency Ltd (SANRAL). This week’s function was attended by the representatives of the sponsors and the UFS, as well as learners, parents, principals and Physical Sciences teachers of participating schools.

The grant will be utilised to foster a positive attitude towards Mathematics and Science amongst learners in the early school years as well as raising the knowledge and skills levels of learners in the Further Education and Training (FET) Phase. “This will be done through our Family Math and Family Science Programme for younger learners and through e-Education in Science and Mathematics for learners in the FET Phase,” said Mr Cobus van Breda, Project Coordinator at the CED.

About 330 selected Grade 10, 11 and 12 learners from 16 schools in the Free State are attending Physical Sciences and Mathematics sessions during weekdays at the ICT Laboratories on the Main and Qwaqwa Campuses of the UFS. In order to make provision for the needs of generation Y-learners (techno-clever generation), the project envisages to enhance their understanding of Science and Mathematics principles by utilising the advantages of ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) during the sessions.

On average, learners attend four sessions per term, with one of the sessions a special event like visiting Boyden Observatory, departments at the UFS, etc. Learners will be exposed to about 36 sessions over the three years. Special attention to vocational guidance, in collaboration with the Unit for Prospective Students at the UFS, forms part of the support system of the programme to participating learners.

“Learning is a life-long experience and we must encourage our learners to grab this opportunity to learn more about important fields such as Mathematics and Science. It is a privilege for SANRAL to have this partnership with the CED and the university as it is an indication of our efforts to educate our youth,” said Mr Nazir Alli, Chief Executive Officer of SANRAL.

Mr Alli encouraged learners to grab the opportunity to learn and to make the field of science their career. “Science can be the foundation on which to build your career and this programme can assist you to reach your goal,” he said.

According to Prof. Teuns Verschoor, Acting Rector of the UFS, the SANRAL grant is a wise investment because it is an educational investment. “We cannot cut back on the investments we make in education and SANRAL’s investment in this programme is of benefit to schools and learners in the central region. Through this programme, its bursaries, various career opportunities and ongoing support of schools and universities SANRAL is making a huge contribution to promoting science-related studies and careers in our country,” he said.

Media Release
Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za  
26 June 2009

 

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