For the last 20 years, the Heinz Awards have recognized the achievements of those who innovate, inspire and demonstrate excellence in their work.

“These remarkable men and women come from different fields and diverse backgrounds, but they share a bedrock conviction in their ability and resonsibility as individuals to make a transformative impact on the world and the lives of others,” said Teresa Heinz, chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation in a statement.

Aaron Wolf, Ph.D., photo by Ali Smith

This year the six Heinz Award winners will be honored in Pittsburgh on May 13, and that same day the Heinz Family Foundation is hosting four community conversations with the recipients at various locations in Pittsburgh. All talks are free and open to the public.

Renowned water policy expert Aaron T. Wolf, the Heinz Award recipient for Public Policy, will lead a talk  “Navigating Peace: Conflict and Cooperation Over Shared Resources” at the Rivers Club with the World Affairs Council from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Geoscientist and professor at Oregon State University, Dr. Wolf is also a trained mediator who promotes global sustainability and resource security, focusing his research on issues relating to transboundary waters and international relations. He is known for brokering critical agreements around water, such as dispute resolution around water aspects in the Arab Israeli conflict.  Dr. Wolf has talked all over the world and acted as consultant to the U.S. Agency for International Development and the World Bank. Along with other leading academics, he founded a consortium of 10 universities across five continents to build a global water governance culture that is focused on peace, sustainability and human security. Register for his talk here.

Jacob Wood and William McNulty, photo by Dave Lauridsen for USAA

Loading their gear and taking donations now in response to the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that shook Nepal on April 25, Los Angeles-based Team Rubicon combines the skills of military veterans with first responders. Its co-founders, William McNulty and Jacob Wood are co-recipients of the Heinz Award for the Human Condition. Former U.S. Marines, McNulty and Wood will speak from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at the Cabaret at Theatre Square in partnership with Leadership Pittsburgh. The two men have built an impressive 25,000-member volunteer network of veterans that harnesses the often highly technical skills of the veteran volunteers and in doing so, creates a community and sense of purpose for them. The team of vets and first deliver humanitarian aid following disasters such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake. They fill the critical gap between the time the disaster strikes and conventional aid arrives.

The Team Rubicon model is extending to other countries, including Norway, Australia and the United Kingdom through a new organization called Team Rubicon Global.

Frederica Perera, DrPH, Ph.D, photo by Kelly Campbell

Frederica Perera, the recipient of  the Heinz Award for the Environment, will speak from 9 to 10:30 at the Hillman Auditorium, Kauffman Center. The program, “The Air We Breathe: How Pittsburgh’s Air Impacts Our Children,” is in partnership with Women for a Healthy Environment and the Breathe Project. Internationally recognized in the field of molecular epidemiology, Dr. Perera focuses her research on toxic chemical and air pollution with its adverse effects of prenatal and early childhood exposures. Also participating in the conversation will be Dr. Illah Nourbakhsh, who created a personal air pollution monitor called Speck, which was inspired by his work with Breathe Cam, an online website that uses sophisticated imaging technology called GigaPan to stitch multiple photographs together and create a high-resolution panoramas of air quality over Pittsburgh. Dr. Deborah Gentile, allergist and immunologist at Allegheny General Hospital, who has focused on the link between air pollution and asthma, will also participate in the talk.

Later on, it’s a girls’ day out at the Carnegie Science Center where Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia (pictured above), the Heinz Award recipient for Technology, the Economy and Employment, will lead “Girls Love STEM Mashup” from 4 to 5 p.m., partnering with ASSET STEM Education professionals. Innovative doctor and pioneering engineer, Dr. Bhatia will share how she creates miniature artificial organs using science, technology engineering and math (STEM). Based at MIT, Dr. Bhatia has developed technologies for interfacing living cells with synthetic systems for tissue regeneration, medical diagnostics, stem cell differentiation and drug delivery. This event is open to all Pittsburgh and Allegheny County middle school girls.

Roz Chast, photo by Kelly Campbell

Illustrator and cartoonist Roz Chast, who was in Pittsburgh to speak last week, is the recipient of the Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities.  A best-selling author, Chast received the National Book Critics Circle Award for her 2014 graphic memoir, “Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?” which details the realities of end-of-life care for her elderly parents. She is known for finding humor in everyday situations and her iconic drawings that appear in The New Yorker.

Laurie Bailey

Laurie Bailey is a freelance writer who has reported for many local publications. When she isn't writing she serves as a media consultant for nonprofits and other local companies.