Westfield State Names Building After Alum Who Discovered X And Y Chromosomes

May 4, 2017

A pivotal but unheralded scientist is getting a building named after her at Westfield State University on Friday.

More than a hundred years ago, Westfield alum Nettie Stevens was studying beetle chromosomes when she noticed a critical difference between males and females.

"She noticed that one chromosome was smaller than the other, and because of that research, we were able to then apply that to the human genome as well," said Westfield biology professor Jennifer Hanselman.

But outside Stevens' research circle, many people credited the XY chromosome discovery to her male mentor.

Hanselman said that naming a new science building after Nettie Stevens is meant not only to honor her work, but to encourage more women to enter science careers today.

Hanselman said about half of biology majors at Westfield State University are women, mirroring the national picture, but many fewer go into other science and technology fields.