Renowned Comparative Psychologist to Speak at Student Research Symposium

Irene Pepperberg, Ph.D., known for grey parrot research, will receive Clavius Award

Friday, April 12, 2013

by James Sanders '13 (M.A.)

PHILADELPHIA (April 12, 2013) — The Saint Joseph’s University Chapter of Sigma Xi, the scientific research society, will host the 24th annual student research symposium on Friday, April 19. Keynote speaker Irene Pepperberg, Ph.D., research associate and lecturer in psychology at Harvard University and adjunct associate professor in psychology at Brandeis University, will receive the Christopher Clavius, S.J., Award, an honor that recognizes inspirational and groundbreaking scientists and researchers.

The address, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for 5 p.m. on campus in the Wolfington Teletorium in Mandeville Hall.

In her presentation, "Numerical Competence Studies on a Grey Parrot," Pepperberg will discuss her work with an African grey parrot that was taught to use the English counting words “one” through “sih” (six) to label sets of one to six individual items.

“Dr. Pepperberg is a world-renowned comparative psychologist and a foremost authority on the cognitive capabilities of animals,” says Matthew Anderson, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and president of SJU’s Sigma Xi chapter. “Through her studies on cognition in African grey parrots, she has provided groundbreaking insight into the workings of the avian mind. Her articles and books have been well received not only by the scientific community but also the general public, and she has made a profound impact on our understanding of, and appreciation for, animals in general. We are delighted to have her speak at this year's symposium and to honor her with the Christopher Clavius, S.J., Award.”

Pepperberg earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. from Harvard. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Harry Frank Guggenheim and Whitehall Foundations and numerous grants from the National Science Foundation. Her book, The Alex Studies, which describes more than 20 years of peer-reviewed experiments on grey parrots, received favorable mention from publications as diverse as the New York Times and Science. Her memoir, Alex & Me, was a New York Times bestseller and won a Christopher Award.

The symposium gives undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to present their research in mathematics, computer science, engineering, and the natural and social sciences, and to view the work of their peers. More than 340 students and faculty from the region’s colleges and universities are expected to attend this year, with approximately 170 student research projects presented during the poster session.

“The Sigma Xi symposium is an excellent venue for students to gain experience presenting their research in a professional manner, and also allows for networking opportunities with others in their discipline and beyond,” says Anderson.

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Founded in 1851 in the Jesuit tradition of academic excellence, Saint Joseph’s University is a top-ranked Catholic University that provides a rigorous, student-centered education. With a total enrollment of 8,500 undergraduate and graduate students, SJU offers a wide-array of academic programs designed so that each graduate enters the world with a competitive resume and global perspective. This is achieved through intense academic study led by thought-leading faculty scholars, a comprehensive campus experience and robust study abroad, service-learning, internship and co-op programs. Upon graduation, nearly 100 percent of students are employed, pursuing advanced degrees or volunteering in prestigious service programs. A member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, SJU offers 20 Division I intercollegiate men’s and women’s sports. SJU alumni – over 60,000 strong - provide a powerful network that spans the globe.

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