Creating future leaders Carlmont's Biotechnology Institute: A Parent & Community Newsletter

a note from the BTI Directors: Jaime Abdilla and Susan Gold

Volume 4 Issue 2

Dear Community:

When Cheryl Shelmadine, BTI alum parent and newsletter editor extraordinaire, suggested that the program directors write the opening for this edition, we were excited for the opportunity to recognize those who make the BTI family so special: the parents, the students, and the staff.

Parents and Guardians: You have provided vital support by participating on our development committee, serving as class reps, volunteering for our mentor program, speaking at our annual symposiums, and providing field trip opportunities. You have also given generously to CAF. We have fun getting to know you at our events, and we are honored to work with your children.

Students: Even though every year, one-third of our program leaves us and one-third of the program is new to the community, by the end of the first quarter, we have become a family. We appreciate your BTI spirit, the way you support each other, and the productive classroom culture that you have created.

BTI Staff: We are grateful to work with a stellar team who is devoted to the BTI mission and gives their all to students. We asked each cohort to share with us what they appreciate about you and have encapsulated their responses below.

Ms. Miller, BTI School Counselor: She is supportive, understanding, and there for her students. She is easy to talk to and also has coloring books in her office to help with stress.

Ms. Velschow: She is super friendly and deeply cares about Carlmont students. She has done so much work to set up the mentor program and find each of us a mentor, and she did a lot of work to get speakers for last year’s symposium, too.

Ms. Moynihan, Modern European History and U.S. History: She’s energetic and vibes with us. She presents material in a way that is easy to understand and makes lectures fun.

Ms. Burndon, Biotechnology 1-2 and Biomanufacturing: She is kind and supportive, accepting, and understanding. She conveys information well and her instructions are so clear and precise that we rarely have questions.

Dr. Kapp, Skyline Professor/Biomanufacturing: He has a contagious enthusiasm for all things biotech, and he makes it easy to be excited for upcoming labs.

Mr. Engberg, Chemistry for Biotechnology: He is a great chemistry teacher with a hilarious personality. Also he taught us the difference between a beaker and an erlenmeyer flask.

Mr. Fabic, English IV: It's evident that he cares about all of his students and wants to help each and every one reach their potential.

Mr. Bauer, Government and Economics: He is always kind and makes class very enjoyable through his sense of humor.

Thank you, all!

And now, on behalf of the BTI parents, we would like to dedicate this edition to the unsung heroes who make this all happen. Their compassion and dedication to this program and our teens are changing lives and molding the next generation of leaders. And now, sit back and enjoy this “Creating Future Leaders” edition. - Cheryl

Meet the bti team - wow!

Jaime Abdilla, BTI Co-director, Biotechnology 3-4:

Ms. Abdilla grew up in Millbrae spending most of her summer either attending summer camp or being a counselor at summer camps. These early experiences opened the door for a career in teaching. This fall was the start of Ms. Abdilla’s 19th year at Carlmont High School. "When I am not in the classroom, I am spending time with my family - husband Masa and kids Jack (10) and Ben (8) - or wrestling decorative pillows away from our new COVID dog, Baxter."

How has being a member of the BTI team influenced how you think about educating our teens?

BTI has allowed me to really understand how important a community is in helping students be successful in school. The BTI team is highly collaborative - we implement cross-curricular activities, provide real-world examples of what is being taught in the classroom, and most importantly of all...we talk to each other about the students - what are their strengths and challenges and what can we do as a team to support them. This BTI community gives the students a sense of belonging and ownership.

Susan Gold, BTI Co-director, English II and English III:

Ms. Gold grew up in Belmont and went to Cipriani, Fox, and Ralston—sadly not Carlmont. When she played make-believe as a child, she was always a teacher and used the backside of her dollhouse to store the papers she had graded. Now, when she’s finished grading papers, she enjoys writing and photography.

How has being a member of the BTI team influenced how you think about educating our teens?

Collaborating with teachers across disciplines has been personally enriching, broadening my perspective, and magic happens when students see how content areas are interconnected in the real world. They can develop an affinity for a subject they thought they had no interest in, and assignments become more meaningful. I feel lucky that our school and district administrators support BTI’s mission to explore science’s connection to the humanities and influence in the world. I would love to see education-at-large make a shift to prioritize cross-curricular collaboration.

Faith Velschow, Work-Based Learning Specialist, SUHSD

Ms. Velschow grew up in Belmont and is also a CHS graduate. She attended UC Davis and graduated with a degree in Human Development and minors in both Psychology & History. She spent the first part of her career in sales and marketing roles at Oracle Corporation before taking time off to raise her 3 children, Jackson (21), Alli (18) and Savannah (17) and get involved in several local organizations. This is her 13th year working with Carlmont students and volunteers throughout the area. When she’s not working, you can see her and her husband, Chuck, walking the hills of Belmont with their 2 faithful dogs, Bo & Sadie.

How has being a member of the BTI team influenced how you think about educating our teens?

Teens today put a lot of pressure on themselves to excel and I truly appreciate how the BTI team has created a community of support and educational excellence. I think it’s so important for them to understand that we are all on our own unique journey and there is no right or wrong way to go, but just your own way. That’s why I love that BTI offers students access to mentors and professionals to be both inspired and reassured about the path that they are on.

Kim Miller, BTI School CounseloR

Mrs. Miller is from Lodi, California (yes, the one from the song “Stuck in Lodi Again)! Not wanting to be “stuck” I came to the Bay Area to attend Santa Clara University and have stayed in the area since then. Growing up in a family involved in education, she always knew she wanted to work in education, but was drawn to individuals rather than larger groups - so counseling was the right fit! Mrs. Miller has been at Carlmont since 2007. Outside of work, I spend my time with my family. I have two kids - my daughter is a junior in high school, and my son is in seventh grade. We spend most weekends on soccer fields, as both of them are active in club soccer. We also love spending time in the mountains and hanging out with our doodle, Buster.

How does BTI enrich students’ high school experience?

I think the small, supportive community of BTI is such a huge advantage for our students. I enjoy watching how a diverse group of kids enter the program as strangers or acquaintances and leave as a family. These connections help our students grow comfortable with each other and the staff, which leads to increased engagement in their education. When I ask students how BTI has impacted their education, nearly every student talks about the close-knit community of the program. Their connections help them thrive as students and individuals.

Leslie Burndon, Biotechnology 1-2 and Biomanufacturing:

Ms. Burndon grew up in San Carlos and graduated from Carlmont, where I was fortunate to get to take Biotech 1-2 one of the first years it was offered. I attended Smith College, where my Biotech skills from Carlmont got me an undergraduate research position investigating the proteins and small molecules involved in quorum sensing in bacteria with the goal of contributing to the development of novel antibiotics. I have a Master’s in Chemistry from UW Madison, where I participated in bio-organic chemistry research on breast cancer pathways. This is my eighth year teaching at Carlmont, and when I’m not in the classroom I’m spending time with my family and being endlessly entertained and exhausted by our 9-month-old son.

What about being a member of the BTI team brings you the most joy?

There are so many parts of being a member of the BTI team that bring me joy. From getting to collaborate with such wonderful teachers, to being able to teach cutting-edge science with high-tech equipment, to getting to spend time working with such curious, kind, and hardworking students - I feel so fortunate to be a part of this wonderful community.

Dr. Nick Kapp, Skyline College Professor, Biomanufacturing

I am one of the leads for Skyline College to offer a certificate and/or degree in Biomanufacturing. I hope to develop Skyline College as a Biotechnology Contract Manufacturing Organization where students gain real world experience making educational laboratory supplies under cGMP. At Skyline College, we aim to develop students' entrepreneurial skills, so they can take their ideas and develop new technologies and products beyond just looking for a job. My current research interests are in looking for ways to make Biotechnology easier and cheaper so that it can be performed in a simple laboratory setting such as you would find in a High School or Grade School setting. I am also interested in producing common drugs in food grade yeast

Joshua Engberg, Chemistry for Biotechnology

I have been teaching chemistry at Carlmont since fall of 2000. I live in San Carlos and have a 7th grader at TL and a sophomore at Carlmont, who is in BTI. My philosophy of science teaching is to engage students as much as possible in hands-on experiments, projects, and problem solving.

How does BTI enrich students’ high school experience?

BTI gives students a much broader view of the working world and education in general. Students get less isolated learning, and more connected learning of skills and attitudes that are more relevant to future success. Additionally, students get to know and depend on their BTI classmates to provide a great sense of community and practice working together over many projects and topics. The biotechnology theme creates relevance across subject areas and classes to engage students' interests.

Oscar Fabic, English IV

I enjoy exploring how literature provides useful and powerful lenses to view the world, its issues, and its beauty. In addition to my deep curiosity for literature and science (and science fiction), I’m also very interested in meaningfully reducing the severity of climate change effects, improving the US education system, learning about the intersection between finance and society (and democratizing that knowledge), and investigating advances in health and medicine. I'm a former college athlete and I appreciate seeing how the actions necessary for success in sports parallel those in other areas of life. Whenever possible, I like to exercise, write, read (a lot), and play. I have a little but growing family of four and love my partner and children more than anything.

What about being a member of the BTI team brings you the most joy?

My favorite genre in literature is science fiction, and teaching in BTI allows me the joy and experience of both exposing students to the fundamental questions of science, ethics, and humanity while also exploring science fiction worlds. Our BTI text, Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, is a personal favorite.

Lindsey Moynihan, Modern European History, U.S. History

Ms. Moynihan grew up in San Carlos and is a Carlmont alum! She attended UC Santa Barbara and graduated with a major and minor in history and anthropology respectively. She stayed at UCSB to attend the Girvetz Graduate School of Education for her dual teaching credential in history and biological sciences and earned her master’s degree in education. Ms. Moynihan spent 5 years teaching middle school at Ralston before returning to Carlmont in 2018. Usually, Ms. Moynihan coaches girls soccer at Carlmont in the winter but needed to take a step back from that this year as she is in the final stages of planning her upcoming wedding, which is to be held in January. In her free time, Ms. Moynihan enjoys Olympic weightlifting and fitness in general, traveling, and spending quality time with her friends and loved ones.

What about being a member of the BTI team brings you the most joy?

My favorite part about being a member of the BTI program is being able to create a strong student-teacher relationship with all of our students as I am fortunate enough to teach them for two years in a row. This helps us to foster a comfortable and compassionate environment and build life-long friendships. One of my hopes for our students’ futures is that they make an effort toward collaboration in whatever careers or walks-of-life they get into beyond high school. Getting to know students beyond the classroom and developing a strong rapport is one of the best gifts of being a part of BTI as I feel I can enact life-long influence and lessons. I am still in contact with many of our graduates today. Additionally, one of my core philosophies is teaching students how to be compassionate, functioning, and engaged citizens outside of the classroom, and I can’t think of a better opportunity to help craft this than through BTI and teaching transferable skills. I know students did not join BTI because history is their favorite subject, which actually helps because we can delve deeper into topics that affect our lives today, which I hope helps to bring perspective and creative ideas to the students as well as help them think and act within their larger community.

Charlie Bauer, Government/Economics

I have been connected with the Carlmont community for many years. I worked with the first sophomore class of BTI students as the Modern European History teacher in the 2015-2016 school year. I also had the opportunity to work with the students in Biotech 1-2 class and observed the scientific side of BTI. As their social studies teacher, I always try to give the students real-world knowledge and engage their curiosity to understand the world around them.

How does BTI enrich students’ high school experience?

The small learning environment of BTI helps both the students and teachers focus on the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in a rapidly changing world. The collaborative spirit of the students helps them engage in all aspects of their studies giving them a more rewarding high school experience.

our bti future future leaders

Left: Theo, Ms. Burndon's little one

Below: Eva and Sophia, Mr. Fabic's little ones

Love your BTI swag? Want more?

Introducing BTI's Redbubble Shop

Phenomenal class of 2022

Let's take a peek at BTI seniors who are hard at work in their Biomanufacturing class. They are up and running in person :-) using Manufacturing and Testing Educational Lab kits.

And when they are not in the lab, honing their skills to be used to develop their own biotech products, they are immersed in learning about our government and how to be concerned and engaged domestic and global citizens.

Fantastic class of 2023

Science abounds for the Class of 2023. Between learning everything they could ever want to know about plants and how they are the cornerstone of much of biotech, to learning through experimentation in Chemistry for Biotech, to contemplating the potential mishaps of experiments gone awry in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, BTI juniors are up to their ears in problem solving and innovative thinking. Take a look!

Plant Hormone Lab

Students are asking the question, "Which concentration of rooting hormone will yield the most roots over 4 weeks?"

And in Chemistry, BTI Juniors are doing a little White Board Problem solving.

BTI Juniors let their imagination run wild in English III - Frankenstein...just in time for Halloween!

Enthusiastic Class of 2024

Welcome welcome parents and students of the Class of 2024! It is so exciting that this cohort gets to start their journey with in-person learning. Who would have ever thought that we would be celebrating this simple fact. Wow! From all reports, this new cohort is filled with excitement and enthusiasm, the perfect chemistry for a successful BTI journey. This class has been busy in Biotech 1-2 with a Hemoglobin lab, where they run a simulated hospital lab test to determine the hemoglobin concentration of a “patient blood sample” for diagnostic purposes. How cool is that? Then they switch classes to contemplate the ramifications of life in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

First impressions of bti from our sophomores

why did you join bti?

  • I chose to join BTI because I was excited to get to work in the labs and understand the different equipment involved in procedures. I also am interested in becoming a forensic scientist, so I thought BTI would make great practice for me to test out equipment and get comfortable with them. KV
  • I chose to join BTI as it provided a great opportunity to explore my interest in science and delve deeper into its different applications. The BTI program has allowed me to really lean into this field in order to get a sense of where my interests lie and to get me thinking about what I want to do after high school. LB
  • I chose to join BTI because when I was younger I had the opportunity to go Roche's campus and see the things they do everyday. After getting to see all the testing and operations on the molecular level I was very intrigued with everything they did. And their cafeteria was amazing. JSL
  • I joined BTI to be apart of a science-minded group of people and to further my interest in how biotechnology can make our world better. DB
  • I chose to join the Biotech Program because science is one of my favorite subjects especially when it is hands-on, in a lab. In a way it allows you to take science and scientific methods to further steps in making the world a better place. SH
  • I chose to join BTI because of my love of science. So joining BTI helped incorporate science into other subjects, and learn lot of new material. IW
  • For a long time I've been interested in going into science-based careers. BTI lets me expand my interests and love for science while being able to strongly bond with a smaller community, so I was very driven to join BTI in Carlmont. KM
  • I chose to join BTI as I have a love for science that I would like to expand and grow. I believe that joining BTI will provide me with a wealth of scientific knowledge that I would be able to take with me and use in a career in science. AB
  • I chose to join BTI because I love science and I knew that Carlmont put a lot of money into the program so we could have tools that you usually wouldn't get to use unless you were in a real lab. I have had some friends who were in BTI in previous years so I asked them about it and they talked about it and it seemed like it would be a good way to learn, have fun, and earn some college credit as a bonus. AI

share a positive experience in the BTI program

  • The first positive experience was the first day of school, when we made cheese in the lab during Biotech and when we got introduced to bioethics in English. That was when I realized that this program was more relevant to my interests than previous courses and it got me excited for the rest of the year. KX
  • The first thing that I noticed in the BTI program, was the quality of teachers. Every year, I am curious as to which teacher will click with me, and help me learn, but all of the BTI teachers have a way to connect to each and every student in their classes. AL
  • I've really enjoyed BTI all around. The teachers are really good, the kids are kind and smart, and I really like that everyone in BTI feels like a part of the BTI community, including the teachers, and I like that a lot. DM
  • Immediately I made connections with the people in my classes, as a lot of them were in multiple. Also, the lunchtime activities were a great way to interact with the community. The teachers and classes were also a major positive experience right off the bat. AG
  • I remember immediately feeling very connected to all of my classmates in the BTI program. It's a very inclusive and welcoming environment, and everyone got along very quickly. DB
  • One positive initial experience in the BTI program is the emphasis on doing rather than just learning. There is less homework which eases the stress of our lives, yet this doesn't take away from the knowledge gained as we learn so much through in-class experience. AM
  • I noticed a really fun, open and welcoming learning environment from the teacher and students. I enjoyed learning science, history, and English a lot more, and it allowed me to understand it better than my normal classes, mostly due to the fact it was something I could enjoy more. GSB
  • A positive initial experience in the BTI program was on the first day of school when we did the cheese lab. There was so much technology in the biotech classroom that I never knew existed. I was thrilled to do a lab on the first day and to know that later on, I would be able to use more equipment that I had never used before. AS
  • One positive initial experience that I had in the BTI program was the first social we did. It was incredible to meet so many people, and engage in fascinating conversations with teachers and my older peers; while having fun and eating popsicles. BA
  • I have to say that all of the people in this program are very kind and welcoming. I actually feel like I have another family, here, at school. KV

building BTI community

Save the date

Nov 19: BTI Lunchtime Social - Pie Feast - Bring a pie to share! And if you can’t bring a pie, come and indulge with us anyway!

BTI's Social Events

slime slime and more slime

A fall favorite just in time for Halloween! BTI students came in droves to make slime. A little bit of chemistry, a little bit of ingenuity, a little bit of creativity and you have SLIME!

BTI Club

BTI Club organized and hosted their first Guest Speaker on Oct. 8th. They welcomed BTI mentor and UCSF professor, Sergio Baranzini, who spoke to the BTI Club about diseases that affect the human genome and how the genome is mapped. BTI club members also offer, "Students Mentoring Students" for anyone who is interested in mentoring or being mentored! Future Leaders!


Symposium Volunteers needed

Sign-up to Speak at the Biotech Symposium

Career Round Tables - professionals will speak in a small group format about their career, educational background, give a brief job description and offer the pros & cons of their field. Students will have 15 minutes with each professional and then rotate to the next. Ideally, professionals from a wide variety of biotech careers will be represented. Colleagues are welcome to sign up together and present as a team.

  • What: Carlmont High School's Biotech Institute is offering a symposium to sophomores on biotechnology education and experience. We will start the morning at 9:00 am with a keynote speaker and then divide students into small groups to meet with professionals.
  • When: Friday, March 18th, 2022
  • Time: 9:45-10:30 a.m.
  • Where: Zoom or In-Person, depending on San Mateo County guidelines at that time.

Thank you from the the BTI Team!!

Parents - Join IN!


Join our parent/teacher Development Committee

We would love to have you participate in our development committee that meets once a month and provides various levels of support to the BTI directors and the program in general. Currently, we are looking for volunteers to be the Junior Class Parent Rep. Reps serve as the point of contact for communication that the development committee sends out. Other volunteer positions that are available include fundraising, newsletter, or MailChimp champ, & social media marketing. It is a low level of commitment that makes a big impact, and it is an excellent way to get to know the BTI directors and other BTI parents by becoming involved behind the scenes in your teen's BTI program.

Want to get involved on the development committee? Send an email to the directors, Susan Gold, sgold@seq.org, and Jaime Abdilla, jabdilla@seq.org. We would love for you to join!

Financial support—Setting our goal for 2021-22

your donations to caf keep the bti program funded

BTI requires $150,000 per year to fund the small dedicated class sizes with specialized curriculum, equipment and supplies, programs, and events with industry professionals. Unfortunately, BTI is no longer supported by the Carl Perkins Grant, which used to fund many of our consumables and reagents. We need your support to pay for these lab essentials, two dedicated Biotech 3-4 classes, and expenses to cover the coordination of the junior mentor program.

BTI is very grateful for the partnership with CAF. When you donate, consider allocating a portion of your contribution to the BTI program. We encourage you to donate generously to both Carlmont and BTI for CAF's Fall Call to Action that runs through Giving Tuesday on November 30th.


BTI parents, please check with your employers to see if they participate in donation matching or are open to providing a donation to the BTI program. One parent wrote a letter to their corporate office with supporting information, including a link to the newsletter, and was able to secure a $2000 to $3000 donation each year. Give it a go! It is usually the combination of corporate and parental donations that allows us to meet our financial goal each year. Thank you.

other ways you can help

  • If you have access to supplies that can be donated to our science labs, contact Ms. Abdilla at jabdilla@seq.org.
  • If you have a knack for social media development, we can use your talents. Email Ms. Gold at sgold@seq.org.
  • If you would like to help with this newsletter, contact Cheryl Shelmadine at service@copyteclegal.com.
  • If you have fund-raising experience and ideas, we would love to hear them!
  • If you have other ways to help, just let us know!

contact information

  • Directors of BTI: Ms. Abdilla at jabdilla@seq.org and Ms. Gold at sgold@seq.org
  • Work-Based Learning Specialist: Faith Velschow at fvelschow@seq.org 650-464-1162
  • President of the BTI Development Committee: Kevin Marks at kevin.marks@comcast.net
  • Newsletter Editor -Cheryl Shelmadine - service@copyteclegal.com
  • Senior Parent Class Rep - Jennifer della Gatta - jennifer@sfdays.com
  • Junior Parent Class Rep - Position to be filled
  • Sophomore Parent Class Rep - Lisa Wong - land.lisaw@gmail.com

go bti scots!