Gabriel Spitzer

Health & Science Reporter / Sound Effect Host / Assistant News Director

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KPLU, after a year covering youth and education. He joined KPLU after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago. There, he created the award-winning mini-show, Clever Apes. Having also lived in Alaska and California, Gabriel feels he’s been closing in on Seattle for some time, and has finally landed on the bullseye.

Gabriel received his Master's of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and his degree in English at Cornell University. He’s been honored with the Kavli Science Journalism Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and won awards from the Association of Health Care Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists and Public Radio News Directors, Inc. He lives in West Seattle with his wife Ashley and their two sons, Ezra and Oliver.

Gabriel’s most memorable KPLU moment was: “In just my second week here, I found myself covering the unfolding story of a mass shooting and citywide manhunt. It was a tragic and chaotic day, when the public badly needed someone to sort the facts from the rumors. It made me proud of our profession.”

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University of Washington

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a smartphone app to test for sleep apnea, a common but potentially serious sleep disorder.

People with sleep apnea struggle with or stop breathing while they sleep. It affects up to 18 million Americans according to the National Institutes of Health. But getting diagnosed tends to be expensive and invasive. UW grad student Rajalakshmi Nandakumar says it generally involves an overnight stay at a sleep lab, in a less-than-restful setting.

In December of 1872, an earthquake shook the Pacific Northwest so hard that a Seattle resident described watching near-tidal waves roil Lake Union.

And it wasn’t just Seattle; the quake shook from Eugene, Oregon to Canada. It triggered a landslide near Wenatchee that briefly dammed the Columbia River.

For years, geologists couldn't pin down the quake's source. But now they think they've found it: A previously unknown fault near Entiat on the east side of the Cascades.

"So we had this big earthquake but no one could put their finger on where's the fault that's responsible," said Brian Sherrod, a paleoseismologist with the US Geological Survey.

A paleoseismologist studies ancient earthquakes. Sherrod said the source of the massive quake has baffled scientists for decades. Guesses placed the epicenter everywhere from Sedro-Woolley to Lake Chelan to British Columbia.

Presage Biosciences

A Seattle company hopes its device will accelerate the development of cancer drugs by letting scientists test multiple drugs simultaneously within a person’s living tumor.

The device, called a CIVO, uses eight micro-needles to inject a tumor with microdoses of multiple cancer drugs. Doctors then would be able test the effects of eight different drugs at once, saving research time.

“What CIVO enables you to do is to have essentially multiple shots on goal,” said Rich Klinghoffer, Chief Scientific Officer of Presage Biosciences which developed the CIVO from research at the Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Province of British Columbia / Flickr

The federal government has moved a step closer to designating the northern spotted owl an endangered species. The owl has been listed as threatened for a quarter-century, but its numbers continue to decline. The California-based Environmental Protection Information Center, or EPIC, petitioned to have the owl reclassified, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said this week that its initial review justifies considering that request. It will publish official notice Friday.

A change in the owl’s status might not have a huge effect on regulations, which were overhauled as part of the Northwest Forest Plan during the 1990s. But EPIC legal coordinator Tom Wheeler said the change would strengthen the regulators’ hands.

  "Sound Effect" is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer.

Each week's show explores a different theme, and week, we push some boundaries.

"Sound Effect" is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer.

Each week's show explores a different theme, and this time around, it’s tales of lost and found.

Jake Schultz

If you ever drive through Seattle-area traffic, you may have had some version of this thought: “I wish my car had wings right now.”

The flying car is a symbol of mid-century optimism about the future, and it seemed almost inevitable at the time that, sooner or later, we’d have them. Obviously, that hasn’t happened. But we actually came a lot closer to getting them than you might think, thanks to a Washington man named Molton Taylor and his Aerocar.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Washington State’s insurance commissioner has opened up a multi-state investigation into Washington’s largest insurance carrier, Premera Blue Cross, after a data breach left 11 million customers’ private information exposed to hackers.

Premera says it found out about the hack on January 29, and the company disclosed it publicly on March 17. So the first thing Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler wants to know is, what took so long?

“Why did it take six weeks before you notified the primary regulator? I want to know why we didn’t know earlier, so that we can make sure that everything that can be done is being done to protect the consumer’s interest,” Kreidler said in an interview.

Eric Bridiers / U. S. Mission General

"Early in 2015, Shin Dong-hyuk changed his story.”

Stuart Herbert

If you’re a parent, this is not news to you: Kids love the swings. So much, in fact, that little kids seem to be able to swing endlessly, for 20 or 30 or 40 minutes, without tiring of it a bit.

I observed this in my own children and, having liked the swings himself as a lad, decided to hop on one as a thirty-something dad.

Tim Bouwer / Flickr

What does it mean to age? When are we "over the hill?" And what are the side effects of a longer lifespan?

On our most recent episode of Sound Effect on KPLU, we explored the idea of aging with Dr. Dan Gottschling. 

William Walker / University of Washington, Dept. of Bioengineering

Seattle-based researchers have developed a synthetic substance that might help prevent some severely injured people from bleeding to death. The injectable polymer is designed to make blood clots stronger, forming a kind of bandage that can stem or stop bleeding, even from internal wounds. Blood loss is the second leading cause of death following a trauma, such as a crash or gunshot.

City of Seattle Community Tech / Flickr

Somali immigrants living in Washington hope the federal government will help them restart the flow of money to relatives in Somalia. Those remittances have ground to a halt since a California bank announced last month it would stop handling them.

That leaves an uncertain future for many families in Somalia who depend on money from relatives abroad. Mohammed Jama, executive director of the Abu Bakr Islamic Center in Tukwila, said in the devastated Somali economy, his relatives have hardly any income.

Courtesy of Quiet Planet

On an April morning in 2011, Gordon Hempton awoke to sunshine. Spring was unfolding outside his Indianola house, and yet all was quiet.

“And I thought, ‘Well, this is kind of funny,” Hempton recalls. “’The birds should be singing.”’

Hempton says he was reminded of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” and wondered if something strange had happened to the birds in his neighborhood. He turned to his partner, Kate.


New findings by University of Washington scientists could change the timeline of how life evolved on Earth, and maybe on other planets, too.

The research has to do with nitrogen, a crucial ingredient of life. Scientists had believed usable nitrogen was in very short supply on the young planet, without the enzymes needed to break it down.

Courtesy of Danny Cords

When Danny Cords’ parents learned he was gay, they took him to a conversion therapist.

“One of the first things he wanted to try to figure out was whether I was a top or a bottom, which, of course, are sexual positions,” Cords says. “And I was 14. I had no idea. I hadn’t had sex, so I didn’t know what to say and he wanted to figure it out. So it was incredibly uncomfortable.

Wallie Funk / AP Photo

A well-known former resident of the Pacific Northwest will be getting special designation from the federal government. Lolita, a killer whale captured from Penn Cove off Whidbey Island, is now a member of an endangered species along with her wild cousins.

Lolita is the last known survivor of the many orcas captured from the Salish Sea in 1970. She has lived since then at the Miami Seaquarium. When Puget Sound orcas were later designated an endangered species, captive whales were excluded.

Courtesy of Marine Construction Technologies

A technology that emerged from University of Washington research has the potential to make undersea construction less of a headache for wildlife.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Editor’s Note: This story originally ran as part of our new show, “Sound Effect,” which airs on Saturdays at 10 a.m.

“Smell that, Gabriel.”

Jon Preston waves a jumble of moss under my nose. It looks very much like a green wig. I oblige and breathe in a lungful of earthy air.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Public health officials say this year’s flu shot provides less protection than in recent years, but Seattle scientists involved in the new study say the vaccine can still make a dent.

The Centers for Disease Control’s interim findings show the vaccine confers a 23 percent lower risk of getting influenza bad enough to need medical help.

Gexydaf / Flickr

Note: PLU holds the license for KPLU, where on-air staff are represented by the union SAG-AFTRA.

Non-tenure track faculty members at Pacific Lutheran University have withdrawn their petition to vote on forming a union. That ends, for now, an election that has dragged on more than a year.

Courtesy of Leila Mirhaydari

Editor's Note: This story originally ran as part of our new show, "Sound Effect," which airs on Saturdays at 10 a.m. The show's inaugural episode on Jan. 10 explored the theme of newness.

Sparkle Glowplug / Flickr

Doctors and hospitals in Washington hope you'll take some time in the new year to think about death — your own, and your loved ones’. It's part of a campaign to get more people planning for health care at the end of life.

A University of Washington professor has taken a very unusual picture: It’s the most detailed photograph ever produced of a large spiral galaxy outside of our own. The massive panorama of the Andromeda Galaxy combines about 3,000 images snapped over three years by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

Courtesy of Seattle Biomed

A Seattle scientist is set to begin clinical trials of a new malaria vaccine candidate, hoping a new twist on an old approach will finally yield an effective preventive treatment for the disease.

The idea of using a weakened pathogen to stimulate the body’s immune response is not new — it is widely in use in, say, the nasal-spray version of the seasonal flu shot. In that vaccine, the idea is to hobble the virus enough that it cannot hurt the patient, but still allows the body to learn to recognize and fight the invader.

George Wesley & Bonita Dannells / Flickr

A federal ruling has paved the way for adjunct and part-time faculty at Pacific Lutheran University to unionize. The decision also sets a new precedent that could affect religiously-affiliated colleges and universities across the nation, including Seattle University.

Creative Commons

A Seattle biotechnology firm is making waves on Wall Street. Juno Therapeutics had a splashy initial public offering Friday, and shares climbed more than 45 percent in its first day of trading.

Settling ground is affecting the Alaskan Way viaduct, Pioneer Square buildings and underground water pipes, Seattle utilities officials said Monday. Engineers think the sinking is connected to the Highway 99 tunnel project, but it probably has little to do with actual digging.

nullschool (screen capture)

The Pacific Northwest is digging in for a potent windstorm, which is expected to rake the coast and then hit the inland Puget Sound region around 6 p.m.

The storm has been taking shape off the northwest coast as a tightly wound low-pressure system.

“Yeah, it looks meaning,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Josh Smith. “You’ll see the clouds spiraling around the low.”

Seattle Tunnel Partners

Officials overseeing the replacement of Seattle’s Alaskan Way viaduct are trying to tamp down safety concerns. But under questioning Monday from Seattle City Council members, they had a hard time coming up with an answer for when people should start to worry.