Grad student Francisco Galdos wins Weintraub award

Francisco Galdos

Stanford stem cell graduate student Francisco Galdos was named one of 12 graduate students nationally to be given a 2023 Weintraub Award, a prestigious honor bestowed upon the nation’s top biomedical graduate students by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. Galdos and other Weintraub awardees will present their research at a symposium in Seattle on May 5, 2023.

“I am tremendously honored to receive the Weintraub Award and to have the opportunity to present my graduate work at the Weintrub annual symposium,” Galdos said. “I am incredibly grateful to the many mentors I have had over the years, with special thanks to my PhD advisor Sean Wu, the Stanford MSTP program, my thesis committee, and the Stem Cell PhD program who have all provided me with guidance and resources to pursue my graduate work. I am thrilled to continue this journey of becoming a physician-scientist and to have the support from the Weintraub Graduate Award.”

Galdos came to the Stanford’s Graduate Program in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine from Harvard in 2017, and quickly made an impression working in the laboratory of Stanford cardiologist Sean M. Wu, MD, PhD. “His advisor at Harvard described Francisco as ‘a brilliant student who is fearless in pursuing the toughest scientific questions,’ and I whole heartedly agree with that assessment,” Wu said. 

In Wu’s lab, Galdos studies the mechanisms of congenital heart disease. Galdos is motivated in part by family tragedy, after hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) killed his younger brother. “He is passionate about finding ways to prevent HLHS by understanding the key signals and pathways that regulate left ventricle development,” Wu said. 

Galdos has been highly creative in his scientific work, Wu said, coming up with experiments to label left ventricular cardiomyocytes by using gene editing to conduct genetic lineage tracing. When the COVID epidemic hit and labs were closed down, Galdos pivoted to learning to write code in Python and doing single cell sequence data analysis. Galdos then developed machine learning software and was able to independently corroborate the results of his lineage tracing findings using only RNA sequencing data. 

Galdos comes from a family of physicians; his paternal grandfather was the head physician for the smallpox eradication campaign in South America and his maternal grandfather was a renowned radiologist in Colombia.  In turn, Galdos is interested in nurturing a love of science and medicine in others. “Francisco has dedicated himself to mentoring undergraduate and high school students in the lab, all of whom have made significant contributions to lab projects,” Wu said. 

“With his exceptional work ethic and remarkable creativity, I have no doubt Francisco will become an internationally recognized leader with a highly successful career as a physician scientist,” Wu said.

Galdos is the second Stanford stem cell graduate student to earn a Weintraub Award in as many years, joining Amira Barkal, MD, PhD, who won the award in 2022.