Dr. Nettie Maria Stevens Science and Innovation Center


About the Center

Photo Gallery     Event Press Release

The Dr. Nettie M. Stevens Science and Innovation Center is a state-of-the-art facility designed at the direction of faculty from several disciplines including those from the Departments of Chemical and Physical Sciences, Biology, Environmental Science and Nursing and Allied Health. The dedicated faculty from these departments insisted that the space in the facility be dedicated exclusively to student laboratories, rather than office space or traditional classrooms.  In its inaugural year, more than 2,200 students were enrolled in 148 sections of classes held in the Dr. Nettie M. Stevens Science and Innovation Center.

The 54,472 square-foot building is designed to meet LEED Silver Standards and includes an advanced building HVAC system using chilled beam technology, LED energy efficient lighting and a remote-controlled window shade system.  The facility boasts a variety of modern features including a wireless computer network, specialized audio-video systems, and floor seating areas with data and electric outlets for student use.  The labs feature the latest in safety measures including state-of-the-art chemical and bio-safety hoods, specialized snorkel individualized lab exhaust systems and an ultra-modern reversed osmosis distilled water system.

The Dr. Nettie M. Stevens Science and Innovation Center contains the following innovative laboratories:


4 - Specialized student Biology labs

1 - 48 student, innovative classroom

2 - Student biology research labs

1 - Tissue culture lab

2 - Biology preparation labs

2 - Organism growth chambers

3 - Controlled environmental rooms

4 - Specialized student chemistry labs

1 - Student chemistry research lab

2 - Chemistry preparation labs

2 - State-of-the-art chemical storage rooms

1 - Environmental Studies necropsy lab

1 - Environmental Studies prep lab

1 - Eight bed, hospital simulation lab

3 - Specialized nursing simulation labs (i.e., Pediatrics, Obstetrics & Medical/Surgical)

1 - Eight station, patient assessment simulation lab

1 - Nursing station

3 - Nursing simulation lab control rooms


Dr. Nettie Maria Stevens

Dr. Nettie Maria Stevens (1861-1912)

Westfield State University is proud to have played a role in the education and spectacular career of Dr. Nettie Maria Stevens. We honor her memory and her significant contributions to science and society with the naming of the Dr. Nettie M. Stevens Science and Innovation Center.

Nettie Maria Stevens was born on July 7, 1861 in Cavendish, Vermont. Stevens’ mother died in 1863. Her father was a carpenter and she was the second of three children and the eldest of two daughters. The family relocated to Westford, Massachusetts after her father remarried. Stevens attended Westford public schools, where her brilliance and perfect attendance was noted in school records. She graduated from Westford Academy in 1880.  

She attended Westfield Normal School (now Westfield State University) from 1881 to 1883 to prepare for a teaching career. An outstanding student, Stevens completed four-years worth of study in only two. Over the next 13 years, she worked as a librarian, a teacher and a principal’s assistant.

In 1896 at age 35, Stevens relocated to California to attend Stanford University to study histology and cytology. There, she received her bachelor’s degree in 1899, but remained at Stanford to work on her master’s thesis. After obtaining her master’s degree, she moved back east to pursue her PhD at Bryn Mawr College, the only institution offering graduate and doctorate degrees to women at that time. Excelling at Bryn Mawr, she was awarded a fellowship to study abroad and received her PhD in 1903.

In her 1905 study involving mealworms, Dr. Nettie M. Stevens identified the Y chromosome and hypothesized that sex determination was dependent on it. Edmund Beecher Wilson, who published his own cytogenetics theories only after reading Stevens’ theories, and Thomas Hunt Morgan, Stevens’ former teacher who publicly denounced Stevens’ work, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1933. Until recently, Stevens’ important cytogenetics discoveries had not received the recognition they deserved.

Dr. Stevens’ research and discoveries have had immeasurable impact on science and society. Thanks to her seminal research at the turn of the 20th century, key discoveries related to the identification of hereditary diseases, the proper understanding and study of human and animal development and the onset of forensic science have all been possible.        

She died of breast cancer in May 1912 at the young age of 50.

The Dr. Nettie M. Stevens Science and Innovation Center affords Westfield State University the unique opportunity to both honor the brilliant legacy of our most distinguished alumna and celebrate the promising future of the university.