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

NASA Deep Space Navigation engineer presents at Naval Hill Planetarium
2017-03-30

Description: NASA Deep Space Navigation engineer  Tags: NASA Deep Space Navigation engineer

From the left: Chris du Plessis; US Consulate, Johannesburg,
Prof Petrus Meintjes; Dept of Physics UFS, Christopher Jacobs;
NASA, and Anthony Deaton; US Consulate Johannesburg.
Photo: Rulanzen Martin

The University of the Free State (UFS) hosted NASA Deep Space engineer Christopher Jacobs on 27 March 2017 at the Bloemfontein Campus. The engagement was hosted by Prof Matie Hoffman of the Department of Physics and the Department of Institutional Advancement, in collaboration with the US Consulate General in Johannesburg.

Jacobs is stationed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology and has served as the Reference Frame Calibration task manager for 25 years. In this role he has been responsible for delivering the reference frames used to navigate NASA missions such as the Mars Science Laboratory to planetary targets.

His visit to the UFS included a presentation to the Department of Astrophysics at the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and at the Naval Hill Planetarium in Bloemfontein where he spoke on Stellar GPS: Navigating the Solar System. He also spoke about the latest research and developments at NASA in Astrometry. The visit will establish and develop shared interests and possible collaboration with UFS and other institutions of interest in the country. “South Africa, because of its well-placed geographic location in the southern hemisphere, holds a lot of answers to astronomy,” Jacobs said.

He has an active interest in professional and public education, and outreach, having given public lectures around the world. “Astronomy brings people together and is a point of common interest that is key in solving environmental and geographical challenges such as climate change, therefore global cooperation is important,” he said.

Prof Hoffman welcomed the initiative by the US Consulate and the possible outcomes of joint efforts to position the UFS as a key partner in South Africa on NASA’s astronomy projects. In the coming weeks Jacobs will speak at high schools in Gauteng including the Mae Jemison US Science Reading Room in Mamelodi, Pretoria, a centre that is focused on promoting science education.

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