Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Previous Archive
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

International speakers discuss diversity
2014-02-11

 
Dr Charles Alexander from UCLA
Photo: O'Ryan Heideman

International and local experts recently gathered on the Bloemfontein Campus to deliberate over the topic of diversity.

Student participation and mobility dramatically increased in higher education worldwide. Cultural, political, economic and social factors on a national and global scale, have brought the reality of diversity into the operational spaces of Higher Education Institutions. These challenges are not exclusive to South Africa, though. In the Netherlands and USA, universities are also challenged by the demands of an increasingly diverse student population.

Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, acted as one of the keynote speakers during a two-day colloquium hosted by the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice. In an impelling address, Prof Jansen argued that change cannot be affected on a university campus if the surrounding community does not change as well. He also noted the spread of a culture of silence surrounding issues of misbehaviour. He urged that we need to find courage again to speak out. From the level of government, media and churches to the private spaces of our homes, we have to co-create an environment of care.

This message closely tied in with that of Prof Shirley Tate’s from the University of Leeds. In her keynote, she asserted that mere tolerance of someone different from you can lead to even more alienation. The path to true reconciliation is grounded in the intimacy of friendship. Friendship and empathy lead to trust and transcend racism.

Another keynote speaker from abroad, Dr Charles Alexander from the University of California, delineated a model for inclusive excellence. He explained that the major problem of true transformation is not due to a lack of ideas, but in the implementation thereof. “Realities of implementation short circuit the change process,” he said. He explained how campus environments can adapt in order to support and enhance lasting inclusivity.

We have to become complicit in the process of transformation, Prof Dr Ghorashi, Professor of Diversity and Integration at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, conveyed. Linking up with the issue of silence, she demonstrated the power of speaking out, using examples from her extensive research among victims of violence. It is imperative, she maintains, that for transformation to materialise, we need to create safe spaces in which we can share our vulnerabilities.

Footnote: Due to unfortunate circumstances, both Prof Dr Ghorashi and Prof Shirley Tate could not personally attend the colloquium as planned. Their respective keynotes were read to the audience on their behalf.

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.

Accept