Gabriel Spitzer

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

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KPLU, and hosts KPLU's weekend program Sound Effect. 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.”

Ways to Connect

Nate Stevens

What happens when you confront the gulf between life and death and, somewhat to your surprise, you choose life?

That’s what Nate Stevens faced one day on a stretch of road in Indonesia. Stevens was not the world-traveler type, but the Seattleite made the trip in part to get out of his comfort zone. That included summoning the courage to climb aboard what was the main mode of transportation in the area he was visiting: an electric scooter.

Mars Hill Church Seattle / Flickr

When music writer Kathleen Tarrant moved to Seattle, she noticed a divide between two groups in the Northwest. On the one hand, you had secular alternative kids who grew up rebelling against the church and other establishments, all set to grunge and indie music. On the other hand, there were young Christians who grew up drawn to the same alternative music, but also to religious faith. In the 1990s, these two groups began to commingle with artists like Dave Bazan and Damien Jurado, faithful Christians who also played alternative music.

Courtesy Nick Morrison

KPLU's Nick Morrison has had many jobs, ranging from disc jockey to adult theater manager to music publication entrepreneur. So it might come as no surprise that he also worked in the family business.

Nick's father was in the potato business in Eastern Washington, and after some time in San Francisco, Nick returned home in need of some work.

He and his father had never really taken the time to get to know each other, and Nick, arriving back home with a pony tail and bell bottoms, was probably not going to improve things.

Courtesy Logan Hofkamp

Many teens, if not most, have fantasies of ditching their mom and dad and just parenting themselves.

In fact, there is a legal way to do that. At age 16, Logan Hofkamp became an "emancipated youth," which is, as he puts it, like "divorcing your parents and becoming your own legal guardian."

He tells us why he's glad he did it, but he also reflects what he may have missed out on. 

Julie Randolph-Habecker

Julie Randolph-Habecker followed her father's footsteps into the field of science. He was a pathologist, diagnosing patients from behind the microscope. She became a research pathologist, exploring what was behind the disease. However, when her dad fell ill with lung cancer, that meant understanding too much about what was killing him.

Julie remembers looking through a microscope at her father's cancer cells. "Everywhere I looked there were cancer cells. And they all looked bizarre and evil. I knew immediately when I looked at that slide, it was horrible."

pee vee / Flickr

When Jena Lopez’s child started showing signs of having a non-traditional gender identity during the preschool years, she wasn’t sure what to do. Can a 3- or 4-year-old really know that she’s a different gender from her biological sex? And Jena knew the outlook for transgender kids was grim: Research has shown they tend to have high rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Children who have been victimized often have to tell their stories to strangers – detectives or advocates working on their behalf, as well as attorneys working for their alleged abuser. And giving testimony in a criminal trial is stressful in the best of cases. But imagine that child could reach down and put her hand on a warm, gentle dog at her feet, to feel comforted and secure and, hopefully, composed enough to provide the facts necessary for getting justice. That’s what a foundation in Bellevue is working to provide.

Alex Wolfe

Homelessness is definitely on the minds of a lot of us in the Northwest right now and its seems like there is some real urgency in trying to find the best ways to help. One group of architecture students from Washington State University are taking it further than most. Their latest class project is to design a transitional house that would sit in somebody's backyard and provide shelter for a homeless person.

Flikr

This segment originally aired on 'Sound Effect' on Feb. 6, 2016 as part of our ‘Going Solo’ episode.

Who do we have to thank for countless wasted hours playing Solitaire on the computer over the last twenty-five or so years? Wes Cherry didn't invent solitaire, but he did invent solitaire for the modern age.

In 1988, he was an intern for Microsoft, and on his own time he wrote code that would become Solitaire for Windows.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

How do you make something called a “slime mold” sound even more disgusting? Call it “dog vomit slime mold.”

It looks more or less like you’d expect, at least from a distance.

“It looks a little bit gross to some people. I think it’s pretty cool,” said Angela Mele.

Pamela Wible

Physicians are in the business of saving lives but they have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession.  An estimated 400 doctors a year take their own lives. Pamela Wible is a physician in Eugene, Oregon and she’s devoted a big part of her career to helping doctors cope with thoughts of suicide.

Courtesy of Leila Mirhaydari

Editor's Note: This story originally ran as part of Sound Effect's inaugural episode which aired Jan. 10, 2015.

New Bedford Whaling Museum Jarvis Collection

University of Washington scientists hope to better forecast climate change by harvesting weather data from 19th-century whaling boats.

For centuries, sailors have been making detailed observations about the weather, and that information has sat archived in yellowing log books. But now research scientist Kevin Wood of the UW and NOAA’s Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and the Ocean, says scientists can put that historical data to use.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Adolescents who engage in self-harm, such as cutting, are using covert hashtags to connect on social media, according to a new study by Seattle researchers.

Hashtags are keywords that connect like-minded users on platforms such as Instagram. That service has banned terms that obviously promote self-injury, like “#self-harm.” But Dr. Megan Moreno says that’s easily gotten around.

provided by the Compline Choir

The Compline service at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church feels very traditional – ancient, even. But the all-male Compline Choir chants its monastic prayers and hymns to a pretty eclectic flock. Elders bent with age mix with people who live on the street, families with small children and young adults in a pretty obvious drug haze.

They’re all there to feel the thrum of sacred music, ringing through this soaring, 90-foot-high cathedral.

Parker Miles Blohm / KPLU

Editor’s note: KPLU has hired an independent editor to oversee coverage of this story.

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Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Washington say they will open the door for an outside group to bid on KPLU. PLU holds the radio station’s license, and had signed a letter of intent to sell it to UW.

The original deal would turn KPLU into an all-music station with new call letters, operated by the UW-licensed KUOW.  But now the parties say they’re negotiating an addendum to that agreement.

Washington has cracked the top 10 healthiest states in the U.S., according to America’s Health Rankings Annual Report. But the state is still wrestling with several longstanding problems.

The report, compiled by United Health Foundation, puts Washington at No. 9 overall, up from No. 13 last year. The state improved on several indicators, including the rate of infectious diseases, cancer and smoking.

Adam Jones / Wikimedia Commons

Researchers at the University of Washington say they can use phone records to help humanitarian efforts in developing countries. The key is the different cell phone habits of wealthier and poorer people.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

If you’ve ever come to, as if from a blackout, realizing you’ve just spent 90 minutes in some Internet rabbit hole or other; perhaps you’ve considered just unplugging – going cold turkey from technology for a little while and just sitting in the quiet. It sounds comforting, even Zen.

Genjo Marinello is an actual Zen priest, the abbot at Dai Bai Zan Cho Bo Zen Temple in Seattle. And you might expect him to be one of those finger-waggers who advocate throwing away your cell phone and just being in the moment.

Centrum Foundation

When Stuart Dempster learned about the empty two-million gallon water tank on the Olympic Peninsula, he had one thought: he had to make music there. Dempster is a well-known composer and trombonist, an emeritus professor at the University of Washington with a longstanding interest in recording music out in unusual spaces.

Group Health, the Seattle-based cooperative founded nearly 70 years ago, has announced it is being acquired by the much larger California-based Kaiser Permanente.

Group Health says nothing is likely to change right away for its employees or its 590,000 policyholders, as the transition is expected to take about a year. After that, Group Health would be operated as a new, eighth region of Kaiser Permanente.  

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Incidents of tampering with a set of standardized tests were probably the result of intra-office quarrels rather than an attempt to get away with inflating scores, according to an independent investigation into the suspicious test results at Beacon Hill International School in Seattle. KPLU obtained the report through a public records request.

Dennis Wise / University of Washington

Researchers at the University of Washington say they have figured out how to make lasers do something they have never done before: make a liquid colder.

sharkhats / Flickr

Sound Effect's Gabriel Spitzer spoke with phonographer and sound artist Chris DeLaurenti about his journey into the tunnels beneath Washington's mothballed nuclear power plant.

Transcript: 

Mary Ellen Mark / Tiny, Streetwise Revisited

In 1983, Martin Bell and his wife, acclaimed photographer Mary Ellen Mark, set out to document the lives of young people living on the streets of Seattle, and he says he’ll never forget meeting one in particular: 14-year old Erin Blackwell, who went by Tiny.

“She was beautiful and engaging and impossible to forget,” Bell said.

Tiny would go on to become the unofficial star of "Streetwise", the heartbreaking, intimate and, at times, exuberant 1984 documentary.

Michael Dwyer / AP

Deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses are down in Washington, but new statewide numbers show that progress is being offset by another alarming statistic.

Between 2008 and 2014, the number of people who died from prescription narcotic overdoses dropped from over 512 to 319. But over the same period, the number of deaths from heroin overdose nearly doubled, to 293.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

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

As you may have heard, KPLU is now in a transition period and there is much uncertainty around the future of Sound Effect. So what do we do when we’re feeling frightened or anxious? We watch videos of cute animals.

Elaine Thompson / AP

The Alaskan Way Viaduct in downtown Seattle has continued to sink, according to the most recent inspection. Washington transportation officials say the structure is still safe to drive on and no additional repairs are needed. 

Daniel X. O'Neil via Creative Commons

A pair of Seattle City Council races remain up in the air after the latest count, with thousands more ballots still to be tallied.

The tightest race in town is still District 1, covering West Seattle and South Park, where the margin narrowed just a bit further after the Monday afternoon update.

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