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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

Women must fight for equal opportunities - Motshekga
2010-08-06

 
Photo: Stephen Collett

“We will not know peace and prosperity unless all women are free. We must open opportunities for women and make sure that we achieve the necessary progress. I believe this would be the best way to honour the life of Charlotte Maxeke.”

This rallying call for action was made by the Minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga (pictured), in her speech to commemorate the life of Charlotte Maxeke, a woman she described as “a heroine” to all South Africans.

The University of the Free State (UFS), in conjunction with the Free State Premier’s office, presented the annual Charlotte Maxeke Memorial Lecture at the Main Campus in Bloemfontein to once again honour this remarkable African woman as part of celebrating Women’s Month.

“We must ensure that we act consciously to extend equal opportunities, freedom and justice to all women,” she said. “We must put all our energies together in this task of uplifting women and children.”

She said that even though women had made considerable strides since the advent of democracy in South Africa, especially in government, much still had to be done to ensure equal opportunities for all women.

“There’s a 40% women representation in government, but the question we should ask ourselves is: What value does this representation bring to the life of an ordinary woman? What impact does it have on her life?” she asked.

She said women were still less represented in managerial positions. “Sexism requires the same amount of energy that we use to fight against racism,” she said.

She also announced that the government had decided to declare the graves of Charlotte Maxeke, Lillian Ngoyi and Helen Joseph as national heritage sites.

The well-attended lecture was entitled: United in action to make 2010-2020 a decade for women in Africa.

Among those present were members of the ANC Women’s League, who came in buses and mini-buses; Dr Allan Boesak and his wife; past and present Free State MECs; and the Vice-Rector of External Relations at the UFS, Prof. Ezekiel Moraka.

Media Release:
Mangaliso Radebe
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2828
Cell: 078 460 3320
E-mail: radebemt@ufs.ac.za 
6 August 2010

 

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