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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

UFS registration process is proceeding well
2011-01-11

Ms Belinda Venter and her daughter, Stacey Venter, second year student in Consumer Sciences, registering online with the help of Donovan Nell, student assistant and currently a third-year student in Computer Sciences at the UFS.
- Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

The university implemented an online registrations process for senior students this year. “We are one of the first universities in the country where students can do the entire registration process online themselves. The advantage of this new turn in the registration process at the university is that students can register from the comfort of their homes or even from any place in the world,” says Prof. Niel Viljoen, Vice-Rector: Operations at the UFS.

Senior students who experienced problems during the registration programme from 1 November 2010 to 4 January 2011, have the opportunity to, within a programme, address these problems as from 5-12 January 2011. During this period UFS staff members will be available to assist students to register electronically.

However, senior students can still register online after 12 January until 28 January 2011.

The registration process of first-time entering first-year students is also proceeding well. Although a large number of applications for late registration have been received, it can be handled without difficulty.

First-year students are welcomed by Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, on Friday, 14 January and Saturday 15 January 2011 at 09:00 in the Callie Human Centre.

From 17- 21 January 2011, first-year students will receive academic advice at the Callie Human Centre, where after they will be referred for self-registration. These processes will take place according to the scheduled timetable, which appears in the Kovsie Guide. The Kovsie Guide was sent to first-year students, and is also available on the UFS webpage (www.ufs.ac.za/register2011).

The registration process for the Qwaqwa Campus is from 17-21 January 2011 for first-time entering first-year students and from 17-28 January 2011 for senior students.

According to personnel at the registration help desk, the following problems are reported the most frequently:

  • Forgotten or expired passwords: Students are requested to contact 051 401 2442 to report this problem.
  • Outstanding registration fees, which lead to the specific student’s account being blocked: Students are requested to contact 051 401 2806 for help in this regard.
  • If information regarding module codes is required, the relevant faculty can be visited for academic advice.


Classes on the Main and Qwaqwa Campuses will start on Monday, 24 January 2011.

 

Media Release
11 January 2011
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Director: Strategic Communication (actg)
Tel: 051  401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: news@ufs.ac.za

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