Dr Laura Heathfield

Senior Lecturer- Division of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology

Dr Laura Heathfield joined the Division of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology at UCT in 2014. She is the programme convenor of the Biomedical Forensic Science programmes, and also convenes the Molecular Forensics courses at Masters level.

Heathfield is the Principal Investigator of the Molecular Forensics Research group, with a research focus on forensic genetics in a post-mortem context.  She is particularly interested in the recovery and analysis of DNA from severely degraded human remains, the use of next generation sequencing, as well as the investigation of genetic factors which contribute to sudden and unexpected death. To date, Laura has published over 25 peer-reviewed journal articles and has supervised over 50 postgraduate students to completion. Through her research she has become acutely aware of ethical issues in a post-mortem context and has served on the Faculty of Health Science Human Research Ethics Committee since 2019. 

Laura maintains a close collaboration with Forensic Pathology Services (Department of Health, Western Cape) and has significantly contributed towards to the creation and development of the Molecular Forensics laboratory within the new Observatory Forensic Pathology Institute. Part of this initiative has involved the procurement of specialist equipment for genetic analyses, including the MiSeq FGx instrument which is the first platform of its kind in Africa. This next generation sequencing instrument is validated for forensic analysis and its use in casework is anticipated to assist in the identification of severely degraded human remains.