Keith Seinfeld

Health & Science Reporter/Assistant News Director

Keith Seinfeld has been KPLU’s Health & Science Reporter since 2001, and prior to that covered the Environment beat. He’s been a staff reporter at The Seattle Times and The News Tribune in Tacoma and a freelance writer-producer. His work has been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Keith's stories prior to Nov. 2010 can be found at our old website archives. And, more stories are at his KPLU blog, Science and Wonder.

You can also check out his "Weather with Cliff Mass" weekly interviews.

Keith’s most memorable KPLU radio moment: “Watching brain surgery on a patient with Parkinson’s Disease. When the doctor pulled out a pretty hefty hand-held drill, I realized: It may be a hi-tech procedure, but you still have to put a hole in the skull, while the patient’s awake.”


public health
12:04 am
Mon April 15, 2013

Changing of guardian for health as smoking reaches crossroads

Retiring Washington state Secretary of Health Mary Selecky is seen in this photo.
Department of Health

For the first time since 1998, Washington is getting a new secretary of health. Mary Selecky is retiring, and her replacement starts today.

Selecky has been a familiar face during health emergencies, such as the pandemic flu. She made tobacco her top health priority, and saw smoking rates drop year after year. But, as she steps down, the anti-smoking crusade is at a crossroads.

Read more
Weather with Cliff Mass
9:33 am
Fri April 12, 2013

Cliff Mass investigates landslides, finds possible culprit

There's more rain in the forecast tonight and this weekend -- with some real downpours expected Saturday in the fabled "convergence zone" of south Everett.

The rain should arrive after 4pm today, for much of the Puget Sound region, says Cliff Mass, professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington (and KPLU's weekly weather expert).

Could that mean more landslides, like the ones that have derailed trains south of Everett, or pulled away a home on Whidbey Island?

Read more
marijuana legalization
6:27 am
Fri April 12, 2013

Local credit union tries on being banker to the pot industry

Verity might be the only financial company in Washington to let marijuana businesses open an account
Keith Seinfeld kplu

Federal law prohibits banks from helping drug dealers. So where do marijuana businesses keep their cash?  

“We would put the cash in the safe on premises, which obviously makes you nervous. You have to leave it there overnight,” said Cale Burkhart, who sells cannabis-infused lotions. His shop closed last year, but he’s still selling a line called Vita Verde.

Read more
Washington Wheat
10:17 am
Tue April 9, 2013

WSU to develop heat-resistant wheat

File image
<< Jonny Boy >> Flickr

An idea for helping Washington’s wheat farmers might also help fight poverty around the world.  It’s a new variety of wheat that could thrive despite global warming.

Washington State University will lead an effort to develop wheat varieties that are better at tolerating high temperatures.

The $16 million project is part of the U.S. government's global hunger and food security initiative called Feed the Future.

Read more
1:34 pm
Mon April 8, 2013

Why is it hard to give away free health insurance?

Having insurance makes it more likely you'll get preventive medical care
Lynn Kelley Author Flickr

You might imagine everyone without health insurance will gladly sign up for free or subsidized coverage once it’s available this fall, under the Affordable Care Act.

However, it hasn't worked out that way for children. A high-profile effort to cover all the uninsured kids in Washington has stalled.

Read more
Weather with Cliff Mass
9:12 am
Fri April 5, 2013

Weekend forecast: Warm April showers to melt snowpack

Those showers that blew in on Thursday will keep blowing our way through Sunday, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass, a professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington.

“And that’s a big change,” he says. “The first real rain that we’ve had in a long time happened last night (Thursday), where a lot of people got about a half an inch. But it’s not the end."

And, because it's been warmer rain, the snowpack in the mountain passes is melting quickly, he says, losing about 20 inches.

Mass says another front will arrive late Friday.

Read more
Drunk-driving laws
5:01 am
Fri April 5, 2013

Lawmaker wants more ignition locks for DUI drivers

New Mexico Department of Public Safety

In the wake of several fatal crashes in which alcohol likely played a role, state lawmakers are debating stricter DUI penalties.

Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, has proposed a bill to that would require suspected drunk drivers to use the ignition interlock device.

Read more
Tracking Bertha
11:01 am
Tue April 2, 2013

Bertha, world's largest boring machine, arrives in Seattle


Bertha, the world's largest tunnel boring machine, has finally arrived in Seattle's Elliott Bay.

Read more
Weather with Cliff Mass
9:05 am
Fri March 29, 2013

Glorious weekend, then drier-than-normal spring

First, the good news: enjoy this weekend, which is shaping up to be wonderfully mild and full of sunshine with highs in the 60s across Western Washington.

After that, be ready for plenty of twists and turns. April is the month of frequent weather changes, says Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington.

The two hallmarks of April:

Read more
billionaires & rockets
3:58 pm
Thu March 28, 2013

World’s largest garage door: First giant step for Allen’s spaceship

Stratolaunch Systems’ new assembly hangar officially opened March 27, 2013 at Mojave Air and Space Port.
Courtesy of Stratolaunch Systems

Billionaire Paul Allen’s spaceship project has reached a milestone in the form of the world's widest garage door. 

The door will make way for a strange vehicle under assembly in the Mojave Desert. 

Allen's team has the most unusual plan, out of several private space ventures, for sending people and satellites into orbit. They'll launch their rockets from the belly of a gigantic airplane, which looks like two Boeing 747s bonded together. And constructing that bizarre jet requires a building wide enough to shelter it.

Read more
healthy neighborhoods
5:00 am
Mon March 25, 2013

Study: Residents of walkable areas don't always walk more

Cindy Perry is seen taking a stroll around the walkable neighborhood north of the University of Washington.

Having a walkable neighborhood has become a hot selling point for real estate. It’s also supposed to be better for your health — if it gets you out moving more.

But a study in Seattle suggests people don’t necessarily walk more just because they live in a walkable area.

Read more
Weather with Cliff Mass
9:13 am
Fri March 22, 2013

Snow or no snow, Northwest spring began months ago

A snow-covered lawn is seen in Bothell, Wash. on Friday, March 22, 2013.
Bellamy Pailthorp

Snow on the third day of spring has some people wondering: what gives?

Well, actually, spring here began a long time ago, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

“The problem we have here in the Northwest is spring lasts too long,” says Mass, professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington.

Read more
binge drinking
4:44 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

Will alcohol policies help WSU finally shed its image?

Kenny Hummel died of alcohol poisoning while attending Washington State University.

Last October, a freshman at Washington State University passed out after consuming hard liquor and an energy drink. The student later died in the hospital. His blood alcohol level was about five times the legal limit.

That led to some soul-searching on the campus in Pullman, Wash.

It turns out an average of 200 students each year end up in the ER at Pullman Regional Hospital for alcohol poisoning and alcohol-related injuries.

Read more
food and farm
6:00 am
Mon March 18, 2013

WSU team creates Cascades-friendly cousin of Honeycrisp

The WA-38 apple is described as crisp and slightly sweet.
Washington State University Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center

Good news for fans of the Honeycrisp apple: a similar variety is being developed right here in Washington state. 

Scientists at Washington State University have created a new apple variety specifically designed to thrive on the eastern slopes of the Cascades and win over consumers. It's a cross between the Honeycrisp with a variety called Enterprise, and is described as crisp and slightly sweet. 

"I was very excited by it. It’s a really nice eat," says Kate Evans, an apple breeder and horticulture professor at WSU's Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center.

Read more
Weather with Cliff Mass
9:12 am
Fri March 15, 2013

Thank the rain shadow, get ready for Gore-Tex weekend

Thanks to rain shadows, Port Angeles only sees an average of 25 inches of rain each year.
Mrjoro Flickr

Expect more of what we've been seeing all week — "clouds, showers, breaks," says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of  Washington.

"Wear Gore-Tex or some raincoat," says Mass, adding, "There will be plenty of breaks."

The temperatures will remain mild until Saturday evening when colder air will head into the region. The new front will bring some welcome snow to Cascade ski areas, says Mass.

"The freezing level will drop from 4,000 to 5,000 feet, to 1,000 – 1,500 feet," he says. "They can easily get 2 to 6 inches."

Read more