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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 congratulates Wayde van Niekerk and other students for their national and international accomplishments
2015-09-17



Kovsies showing the world that success is inevitable
Photo: Johan Roux

Students from the University of the Free State (UFS) have not only conquered South Africa (SA), they have also left footprints in the world. During 2014 and 2015, our students have performed well in various fields.

A special celebratory event was held at the Bloemfontein Campus on Tuesday 15 September 2015. Members of the Rectorate, Student Representative Council (SRC), Grey College Secondary School personnel and former principal, Mr Johan Volsteedt, as well as UFS staff members and students gathered at the Callie Human Centre to congratulate those students who have recently represented the university with excellence atnational and global levels. Also present were representatives from the Department of Sports Arts Culture and Recreation (SACR) in the Free State and the Free State Sport Confederation (FSSC).

Sports leadership has proven to be one of Kovsies’ areas of expertise. From Wayde van Niekerk making international headlines as the 2015 Men’s 400m World Sprint Champion, to Nicole Walraven who was named as the SA under-21 Hockey 2015 Player of the Year, speaks the language of winners.

Wayde believes that his achievements are also for his family, friends, mentors, and the university community to rejoice in.“What I achieved is our achievement,” he said “the person I am today is because of the people around me.” Also supporting him at this event was MsAns Botha, his coach together with his family and friends.

Andricia Hinckemann’s commitment to promote environmental sustainability in light of the global warming crisis earned her the Miss Earth SA 2015 second princess status.

The UFS Debating Society also joined the ranks as highfliers when announced as South African National Universities Debating Champions for 2015. The UFS team competed in nine preliminary rounds. Devon Watson and NkahisengRalepeli from the UFS had to fight their way through nine preliminary rounds to the finals. Competing in the category English as a First Language, Devon and Nkahiseng brought yet another championship title home.

Success is music to our ears here at Kovsies, Veritas and Marjolein showed us that music can also symbolize success. These residence serenade groups took first and second place, respectively, at the 2015 ATKV National University Sêr competition.

Other students who have the world in their hands and are striving to make it a better place include Rolene Strauss (Miss World 2015), Elzane van der Berg (Deaf Miss South Africa 2014), the Shimlas (2015 Varsity Cup champions),KovsieNetball (2014 Varsity Netball champions and winners of 2014 National Premier League), KovsieTennis (2014 USSA Champions) and Varsity Sevens Champions 2015.

Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the university remarked upon the inevitable nature of success amongst our university’s students. “Whether they are in athletics, netball, or debating, Kovsie students do well in every aspect of their lives.”

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