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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

Graduates should use knowledge to ‘re-dream society’
2016-09-19

Description: Spring Graduation 2017 Tags: Spring Graduation 2017

Dr Molapo Qhobela, CEO of the National Research
Foundation was the guest speaker at the
2016 Spring Graduation ceremonies on the
UFS Bloemfontein Campus.
Photo: Johan Roux

“The knowledge you receive, the skills and tools you have acquired, whether they are tools of time management, tenacity or brilliance, are what we as this emerging new society need to re-dream for the type of society we would like see in this country.”

These were the inspiring words of guest speaker Dr Molapo Qhobela to graduates of the University of the Free State (UFS) at the Spring Graduation ceremonies on 15 September 2016 in the Callie Human Centre on the Bloemfontein Campus. Dr Qhobela is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Research Foundation.

A total of 442 degrees, diplomas and certificates were conferred on graduates from six UFS faculties, namely the Faculties of Law, Humanities, Education, Health Sciences, Economic and Management Sciences and Natural and Agricultural Sciences.

Joyous atmosphere befitting a spring ceremony

The spirit at the spring ceremonies was truly inspiring, joyous and heart-warming. The jubilation from the audience as the procession entered the hall demonstrated the exhilaration of graduates and their families. The sense of accomplishment and pride reverberated as the graduates walked across the stage.

Graduates’ hard work and dedication applauded

 “You endured what you had to
endure and you enjoyed what
had to be enjoyed.”

“You have worked incredibly hard and the privilege to walk across the red carpet only goes to those who were prepared to do the work,” Dr Khotso Mokhele, Chancellor of the UFS said.

He applauded graduates for the many hours and sacrifices they had to endure, saying: “You endured what you had to endure and you enjoyed what had to be enjoyed.” Dr Mokhele also mentioned the amazing Gold medal win at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro of UFS star athlete, Wayde van Niekerk.

Distinctions awarded by the UFS.

 

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