Irene Pepperberg, PhD., the author of Alex & Me, studies grey parrots. The main focus of her work is to determine the cognitive and communicative abilities of these birds, and compare their abilities with those of great apes, marine mammals, and young children. She is studying the mechanisms of their learning as well as the outcomes.
As she relates in Alex & Me, Dr. Pepperberg began her work as an animal behavioral scientist in 1977, fascinated by the pioneering research being done at the time with chimps and dolphins into animal intelligence and human/animal communication. She chose to work with parrots, and that's when she met Alex, an African Grey.
Using a social-based model/rival training method, instead of the prevailing behaviorist operant conditioning, she taught Alex English words and tested his remarkable comprehension of labels, numbers, categories (colors, shapes), comparisons, phonemes—a level of cognitive processing that most researchers believed to be beyond animal intelligence.
Dr. Pepperberg's degrees include an S.B., Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; M.A., Chemistry, Harvard University; and a Ph.D., Chemical Physics, Harvard University. She is currently an adjunct associate professor at the Dept. of Psychology, Brandeis University, and a lecturer and research associate at Harvard University.
You can learn more about Dr. Pepperberg's scholarly works and about Alex at The Alex Foundation.