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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

Alumni to be honoured once again for outstanding achievements
2016-09-05

Description: Alumni to be honoured  Tags: Alumni to be honoured

Adv Roelf Meyer won the Chancellor’s
Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2015.

Alumni are a source of pride for the University of the Free State and their work in all spheres of society is recognised and celebrated. The UFS Alumni Office invites nominations for outstanding alumni for achievements attained in both their personal capacity and professional fields, for the Kovsie Alumni Awards in the following categories:

* The Chancellor’s Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award is the highest honour accorded to an alumnus. This award recognises the distinguished achievements of its recipient (both professionally and personally) on a national or international scale.

* The Young Alumnus of the Year Award aims to recognise and celebrate the achievements of alumni who have graduated within the past decade.

* The Cum Laude Award is bestowed upon an alumnus to recognise excellence in any field.

* The Executive Management Award is made to any person (not necessarily an alumnus) who has delivered exceptional service to the university.

The Kovsie Ambassador Award is bestowed upon an individual whose achievements have brought distinction to him/her, benefited his/her community and brought credit to the University of the Free State

Nominations can be submitted in writing to the Alumni Office at alumni@ufs.ac.za using the provided nomination form. The nominee’s qualification and the year in which it was obtained at the UFS must be clearly indicated on the nomination form. In addition, a comprehensive CV of the nominee (including his/her achievements) must accompany each form. A selection panel will choose the outstanding candidate(s) with age, race and gender playing no role in the selection process. The closing date for submission of nominations is 12:00 on 30 September 2016.

In 2015, the Chancellor’s Distinguished Alumnus Award was presented to Adv Roelf Meyer at a luncheon held on 29 August. This year, the awards will be presented at a gala banquet on Saturday, 5 November.

Some of the previous winners include well known personalities such as: Leon Schuster, Cum Laude Award recipient, 1992; Dr Sheila Aronstam, Jewish historian, Kovsie Alumnus of the Year, 2013; Tate Makgoe, MEC for Education in the Free State, Alumni Cum Laude Award winner 2013; and Judge Violet Phatshoane, Judge of the Northern Cape High Court, Kovsie Alumni Award winner of 2014.

For inquiries, contact Helen Namponya on +27 051 401 9343, or by e-mail at alumni@ufs.ac.za.

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