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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

During 2011: Achievements at the UFS

Sarah Shannon

Dr Alex Amtaika, Department of Political Science

Description: 2011 Achievements_Alex Amtaika Tags: 2011 Achievements_Alex Amtaika

During a conference at Khon Kaen University in Thailand, Dr Alexius Amtaika from our Department of Political Science was elected as Executive Director and Convener of the International Committee of Scholars of Local Government. This honour was bestowed upon Dr Alexius during the first International Conference on Local Government at Khon Kaen University. 

Sarah Shannon

Description: 2011 Achievements_Sarah Shannon Tags: 2011 Achievements_Sarah Shannon

We all have heard stories about inspirational people, who defy the odds, fight circumstance every day and never give up. Sarah Shannon has cerebral palsy but has never stopped dreaming and achieving them.

Sarah is also a competitive swimmer, and is currently ranked seventh in the world in her class of disabilities.

She is currently completing her postgraduate certificate in Education, Foundation Phrase, through Unisa. She is also studying Sociology at our university.

DW Bester and Sannah Mokone, Rhodes Scholars

Description: 2011 Achievements_Rhodes Scholars Tags: 2011 Achievements_Rhodes Scholars

Of the four open Rhodes Scholarships available to students from all universities in Southern Africa, two of our students won these prestigious scholarships. DW Bester, B.Sc. Hons. Actuarial Science student, and Sannah Mokone, BPub-cum laude student, joined Oxford University in the United Kingdom in September 2011 to further their studies.

The Rhodes Scholarships, arguably one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world, were founded in 1903 in the will of Cecil John Rhodes and cover the full costs of study at Oxford University.

While academic excellence is a pre-condition for consideration for the Rhodes Scholarship, these scholarships are unique in that Rhodes Scholars are outstanding young students who excel academically, but very importantly, demonstrate leadership, are committed to making a difference in the world, and have the energy to fulfill their ambitions. 

Dr Derik Coetzee, Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences

Description: 2011 Achievements_Derik Coetzee Tags: 2011 Achievements_Derik Coetzee

When you suddenly receive a call during a World Cup year and requested to come and assist in leading the Springboks, then you have to know, you have something to offer. This is what happened to Dr Derik Coetzee from our Department of Exercise and Sports Sciences. This year he once again became involved in the Springbok rugby team, after he had been die Bokke’s conditioning trainer from 2004 to 2007.

His primary task as conditioning head was to help in seeing to it that the Springboks reached their best level of play – psychologically, physically an emotionally. Amongst others, his duties included the optimisation of the players’ muscle and explosive power, speed, anaerobic ability and technical skills.

Jefferson J Dirks-Korkee en Mart Kotzé

Description: 2011 Achievements_Jefferson and Mart Tags: 2011 Achievements_Jefferson and Mart

Jefferson J Dirks-Korkee, from Willowmore in the Eastern Cape, and Mart Kotzé from Bloemfontein, recently made history by being the first students from our Department of Drama and Theatre Arts featuring in an Afrikaans South African film Skoonheid, the first ever to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

The movie won the Queer Palm Award at the 2011 Cannes International Film Festival, where Robert de Niro was the chairperson of the panel of judges. 

Prof. Muriel Meiring, Department of Haematology and Cell Biology

Description: 2011 Achievements_Muriel Meiring Tags: 2011 Achievements_Muriel Meiring

Prof. Muriel Meiring, Specialist Scientist in our Department of Haematology and Cell Biology, is responsible for establishing the Specialised Haemostasis Laboratory at our university and the Universitas Hospital’s National Health Laboratory Service. She established this centre as a reference centre for Von Willebrand disease, a genetic bleeding disorder, in South Africa. This laboratory is internationally recognised for their research and as a reference laboratory.

Prof. Meiring develops and tests antithrombotic (anti-clotting) agents and her long list of publications, research awards and congress presentations has earned her a nomination for the Department of Science and Technology’s Distinguished Woman Scientist Award. She was one of two scientists of the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) to receive the award – Prof. Meiring being the only woman from our university.

Medical facilities from all over the country make use of her and her team’s expertise when testing for blood disorders and she hopes to expand the centre even further.  

Melinda Jonker

Description: 2011 Achievements_Melinda Jonker Tags: 2011 Achievements_Melinda Jonker

Melinda Jonker, one of our third-year financial economic students, won the overall national competition of the prestigious Traders Trophy competition at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

The competition, sponsored by Nedbank Capital and Oxyor in Amsterdam, requires participants to trade actual JSE-listed shares against one another on a simulated platform. The winner is determined not only by the highest profit, but also by the technique used throughout the trading session.

Christopher Diab, also a student from our Department of Economics, won the regional UFS competition. 

ASSAf members

Description: 2011 Achievements_ASSAF Tags: 2011 Achievements_ASSAF

Seven of our academic colleagues have been elected as members of the Academy for Science of South Africa (ASSAf). They are Proff. Hendrik Swart, Physics; André Roodt, Chemistry; Zakkie Pretorius, Plant Sciences; Max Finkelstein, Mathematics; James du Preez, Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology; Maryke Labuschagne, Plant Breeding; and Neil Roos from our Postgraduate School.

Due main objective of the Academy is to promote and apply scientific thought in the service of the society, in order to determine the quality and scope of the role that the Academy can plays in the country’s life and progress, and eventually apply it

Other colleagues who are currently members of ASSAf include Proff. Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector; Johan Henning, Dean: Faculty of Law; and Frans Swanepoel, Senior Director: Research Development.

Samantha Renda-Dollman

Description: 2011 Achievements_Samantha Dollman Tags: 2011 Achievements_Samantha Dollman

Samantha Renda-Dollman, a BSc (Zoology) student on our Qwaqwa Campus, has obtained 19 distinctions out of the 22 modules she has written since 2009.

Her hard work earned Samantha the prestigious Dux Student award of our 2011 Annual Student Affairs Excellence Awards, held at our Qwaqwa Campus. This makes her the best overall academic performer of the entire student body on this campus.  

Jaco Griessel

Description: 2011 Achievements_Jaco Griessel Tags: 2011 Achievements_Jaco Griessel

Jaco Griessel, an Honours student at our Odeion School for Music, received a prestigious Mandela Rhodes bursary for 2012 to study towards his Master’s degree next year.

Jaco, who is currently busy with his BMus Honours degree, is a performer par excellence, with many achievements to his name. In 2010, he received the Fanie Beetge Prize for the best undergraduate student in Systematic Music Studies. A year before, he received the same prize as best undergraduate student in Historic Music Studies. He shall continue his Master’s degree with Music Composition as field of specialisation at our university in 2012.

Prof. Helena van Zyl, UFS School of Management

Description: 2011 Achievements_Helena van Zyl Tags: 2011 Achievements_Helena van Zyl

Prof. Helena van Zyl, Director of the UFS Business School, was elected as President of the South African Association of Business Schools (SABSA). Since the beginning of 2010 she has been acting as president. Prof. Van Zyl is the first woman to occupy this position and also the first woman who is currently heading a business school in South Africa. She will serve SABSA as the president for the next two years.

Prof. Zakkie Pretorius, Department of Plant Sciences

Description: 2011 Achievements_Zakkie Pretorius Tags: 2011 Achievements_Zakkie Pretorius

Research by Prof. Zakkie Pretorius from our Department of Plant Sciences, has become part of Phase II of a mayor global project to combat deadly strains of a wheat pathogen that poses a threat to global food security.

Prof. Pretorius focuses on the identification of resistance in wheat to the stem rust disease and will assist breeders and geneticists in the accurate phenotyping of international breeding lines and mapping populations. In addition, Prof. Pretorius will support scientists from Africa with critical skills development through training programmes.

The Ug99 strain was discovered in Kenya in 1998, but are now also threatening major wheat-growing areas of Southern and Eastern Africa, the Central Asian Republics, the Caucasus, the Indian subcontinent, South America, Australia and North America. 

Prof. Danie Strauss, research fellow in the Faculty of Humanities

Description: 2011 Achievements_Danie Strauss Tags: 2011 Achievements_Danie Strauss

Prof. Danie Strauss, a research fellow in our Faculty of the Humanities, won the Dooyeweerd Prize from the Board of the Association for Reformational Philosophies in Amsterdam. Prof. Strauss, former Dean of our Faculty of the Humanities and head of our Department of Philosophy, won the prize for his book Philosophy: Discipline of the Disciplines. The prize is awarded for work in the field of systematic philosophy.

Nida Jooste and Ryan Lamb, Abe Bailey Travel Bursary holders

Description: 2011 Achievements_Abe Bailey Tags: 2011 Achievements_Abe Bailey

Nida Jooste and Ryan Lamb are two of the proud recipients of Abe Bailey Travel Bursaries. Both students are academic achievers, but also excel in other fields. This is what set them apart from the rest of the applicants for the bursaries.

Ryan (23), a Medical Physics Honours student at our Faculty of Health Sciences, received the Senate’s Medal for the best Bachelor’s Degree student at the UFS. He was one of 100 students at the Brightest Young Minds Summit this year and was one of the 2008 delegates to the World Youth Forum, hosted by the International Association for Poetry and Solidarity in Italy.

Nida (21) is a very familiar face on our Bloemfontein Campus, as she served as the Deputy Chairperson of our Interim Student Council in 2011. 

Loerie Award for Tarran Jacobs, Elizabeth Forson and Mafohlela Mahlatsi

Description: 2011 Achievements_Loerie Tags: 2011 Achievements_Loerie

The creativity of a group of students from our university was rewarded with a bronze Loerie Award after they won an internal competition. Tarran Jacobs, Elizabeth Forson and Mafohlela Mahlatsi, all third-year Marketing Communication students, won the award for an advertisement they designed for Cansa.

Each year, the third-year Marketing Communication students of our Department of Communication Science have the opportunity to flex their creative muscles in the Copy-writing class. The challenge is to design two advertisements for any charity organisation by applying the knowledge they gained from the subject in a practical way. The top three groups are then entered for the Loerie and Pendoring awards – two of the most prestigious awards in the South African advertising industry.

The top three groups designed advertisements for Cansa, the South African Blood Service and Crime Line.

Hendrik Kruger and Anke Malan walk away with awards at Pfizer UKZN Young Health Scientists Research Symposium

Description: 2011 Achievements_Pfizer Tags: 2011 Achievements_Pfizer

Two students in our Faculty of Health Sciences won awards at a Pfizer UKZN Young Health Scientists Research Symposium.

Hendrik Kruger, a medical student, represented his group, which won the clinical category with the paper “Injury patterns of occupants surviving motor vehicle accidents in the Free State”. This presentation was based on a study which is the first of its kind in South Africa.

The group with Anke Malan from our Department of Nutrition and Dietetics as presenter received the prize in the community-based category with the presentation ’Knowledge, practices and perceptions of undergraduate students at the UFS regarding the risk factors of osteoporoses’. Anke’s team was also nominated as the overall winner of the symposium. Presentations were delivered in three categories, namely clinical, community-based and laboratory research. 

Prof. Louis Scott, Department of Plant Sciences

Description: 2011 Achievements_Louis Scott Tags: 2011 Achievements_Louis Scott

Prof. Louis Scott from our Department of Plant Sciences was formally rewarded the Fellowship of Royal Society of South Africa (RSSA).

Prof. Scott is an internationally recognised Palinologist at our university and a B-rated scientist.

Fellows of the RSSA are considered to be part of a very elite group of South African scientists who have achieved international acknowledgment. 

Prof. Aldo Stroebel, International Academic Programmes in the Office of the Vice-Chancellor

Description: 2011 Achievements_Aldo Stroebel Tags: 2011 Achievements_Aldo Stroebel

Prof. Aldo Stroebel has been elected as a Founding Member of the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS).

He is Associate Professor in our Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Development and Extension, as well as the Director of International Academic Programmes in the Office of the Vice-Chancellor.

The Young Academy has as its objectives to represent young scientists in advising the government on science and technology policy and human resource development. In addition, they will prepare the SAYAS to join the Global Young Academy (GYA) to engage with high-level international bodies, including the World Economic Forum.  

Prof. Lodewyk Kock, Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology

Description: 2011 Achievements_Lodewyk Kock Tags: 2011 Achievements_Lodewyk Kock

Prof. Lodewyk Kock was a sought-after keynote speaker at various conferences and seminars around the globe on our nanotechnology breakthrough research.

He delivered keynote lectures at international conferences of repute in the USA, China and Greece. In the USA he delivered a the keynote address at the Conference & Exhibition on Pharmaceutical Regulatory Affairs (Pharma-2011), held in Baltimore, and was a keynote speaker at the 2nd World Congress on Biotechnology in Philadelphia. He was also invited to present various lectures abroad.

He posted two video lectures in e-conference format on his research on the web page of the journal Translational Biomedicine. He was also invited by the International Society of Translational Medicine (ISTM) to head their “Molecular Imaging” Division.

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