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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

Record amount of degrees and diplomas awarded during Spring graduation ceremony
2005-09-12

The University of the Free State (UFS) will award a record amount of 885 degrees and diplomas on Thursday 15 September 2005 to students from the Vista and Main campuses during this year’s spring graduation ceremony. 

Altogether 572 degrees and 313 diplomas will be awarded.  This is the most degrees and diplomas that have been awarded during the spring graduation ceremony. 

One honorary doctorate and 30 doctorates will also be awarded.  The honorary doctorate Doctor Theologiae (honoris causa) will be awarded to Prof Wilhelm Neuser for his contribution to the promotion of international Calvin research and for his insight and personal dedication to involving South Africans in it.

In the Faculty of Health Sciences 74 degrees, 26 diplomas and 2 doctorates will be awarded, in the Faculty of Humanities (excluding the School of Education) 90 degrees, 9 diplomas en 6 doctorates will be awarded.  In the Faculty of Law 31 degrees will be awarded, in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences 127 degrees, 2 diplomas and 15 doctorates will be awarded, in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences 173 degrees, 2 diplomas and 2 doctorates will be awarded and in the Faculty of Theology 13 degrees, 4 diplomas and 1 doctorate will be awarded. 

In the School of Education 64 degrees, 273 diplomas and 1 doctorate will be awarded.

The diploma ceremony will start at 08:30 and the graduation ceremony will start at 14:30.  Both ceremonies will take place in the Callie Human Centre on the Main Campus.


Media release
Issued by:  Lacea Loader
   Media Representative
   Tel:  (051) 401-2584
   Cell:  083 645 2454
   E-mail:  loaderl.stg@mail.uovs.ac.za
9 September 2005
 

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