Return to classes - let's celebrate! Carlmont's Biotechnology Institute: A Parent & Community Newsletter

a note from the editor

Volume 4 Issue 1

Such an exciting time to see Starbucks bustling with students grabbing their coffees and walking to campus in the morning! It's a bit surreal, but it is time to celebrate our BTI students, teachers and administrators returning to in-person teaching, learning and interacting. Yahoo! Last year, as parents, we watched our teens hunker down behind their screens, focused on Zoom-based learning while conducting their science experiments and completing creative projects in various parts of our homes. Some of our teens joined the monthly BTI Zoom-based socials, playing games and such, hosted by our BTI teachers, while most all of our teens benefited from one of the pillars of the BTI program—the profound sense of community that students consistently report as being one of the most valued parts of the program and arguably, helped BTI students stay connected. But... we can probably agree that it wasn’t quite the same. Fortunately, now we can close that chapter and focus on what this new school year brings!

This first issue of 2021-2022 explores the kick-off of this new academic school year. Gone are the checkered Zoom photos (Yay! Although those will go down in Carlmont history!) to be replaced by the return of our masked :-) BTI students, actively engaged in their education. We are especially happy to welcome our new BTI sophomore class and for all intents and purposes, our BTI Junior class, who can now take full advantage of a more fully functioning BTI program. We are also excited to extend an invitation to all parents and community members to consider a volunteer position as a mentor or committee member for the BTI program. (Read on to learn more about that.)

So without further ado, on behalf of the BTI parents, I would like to thank all the BTI teachers and administrators for the extraordinary effort and support they continue to provide our BTI teens. And now, a glimpse into the “Return to Classes – Let’s Celebrate!” edition.

OUr BTI team & what's in store for this year

first impressions

The junior BTIers in Chemistry for Biotech are very motivated and interested in learning about the chemistry of smells. We have been building molecular models and relating structures to properties. Mr. Engberg

There is a beautiful hum in the room when students are in groups having a focused discussion. I’ve missed that! Being back on campus is energizing. – Ms. Gold

“I think there was a greater level of energy and also a heightened sense of appreciation for school after returning from a year-and-a-half of distance learning. It was great to see their energy this week.” - Mr. Fabic

It has been great to see and meet all the senior BTI students in person. They seem ready to learn and explore new topics in a collaborative environment. - Mr. Bauer

It has been delightful to meet all the new BTI sophomores and start getting to know the seniors. Being back in the lab with students is so much fun! - Ms. Burndon

I never thought I would love the sound of clanking glassware, dribbling plastic pipette, or the clatter of students digging for 15-mL tubes...but these are the sounds of an active laboratory and it is such sweet music to my ears after nearly 15 months of quiet. I am so excited to meet the juniors—in real life! - Ms. Abdilla

Introducing the newest member of the bti team

charlie bauer

After five years, I am pleased to be back as part of the BTI team. My name is Charles Bauer, and 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. The following year I filled in for Tina Smith when she was on maternity leave and taught the students in Biotech 1-2. I have always enjoyed working with the BTI students, engaging them in thoughtful discussions and encouraging them in their studies.

When I heard that the team was going to need a teacher for the seniors this year, I jumped at the chance to once again work with this gifted group of students. They have not disappointed as to their enthusiasm for the topics covered in their American Government class.

Whoo Hoo! Back in class!

what bti students are up to...

Biotechnology 1 with Ms. Burndon - will be learning about the impact of Biotechnology on society through the stock project and other online career and current event explorations. We will be doing many labs to develop the core skills of Biotechnology, including measurement, solution preparation, micropipetting, and spectrophotometry. We will also delve into the world of product development, studying the Biotech Product Pipeline through the lens of the COVID-19 vaccine development process.

Biotechnology 3 with Ms. Abdilla - We started off semester 1 with a review of solution preparation, learning about the plant and flower parts and the function of those parts. Semester one will include a review of the lab equipment the juniors have not previously had a chance to use, and will focus on plants - germinating seeds, growing plants from seeds, and cloning plants using 3 different techniques.

Chemistry for Biotech with Mr. Engberg - Our big project based learning task for first semester will be to create a beverage and chemically and nutritionally analyze this beverage. As such students will be figuring out a lot of chemistry related to solutions, calorimetry, chemical structures, calculations, measurement, units, and properties.

Modern European History with Ms. Moynihan - covering one topic a week, currently in a unit focusing on Europe before modern times, we’ll take a closer look at innovations during the scientific revolution and Age of Reason to explore how new inventions and ideas helped to spread ideas of democratic government. We are spending time working in partnerships or small groups often as we missed out on this social aspect of school last year, and everyone seems to be enjoying that greatly. We just can’t stop talking with each other! While of course covering foundational content and review analytical skills :)

US History with Ms. Moynihan - covering one topic a week, currently in a unit about the Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century and its impact on society and quality of life. This week students will be researching innovations, inventions, and discoveries of the late 1800s and early 1900s and determining which had more positive and which had more negative impacts on society in the United States during the Gilded Age. In the coming weeks, we will research a modern industrialist and compare them to the captains of industry of the late 19th century.

American Government with Mr. Bauer- This semester we are exploring American Government around the three overarching themes. 1. Engagement in Government: exploring the role of government and how an individual can influence government policy. 2.U.S. Government Structure and Function: discovering how the national government is set up and works. 3. Civil Rights and Civil Liberties: investigating the rights and liberties of American citizens, and the role the government plays in protecting them and sometimes infringing on them. We are grounding the topic exploration around current events, which provides real time/real life examples.

English IV with Mr. Fabic Cortez - 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 science (and science fiction), I’m also interested in improving the education system, learning about the intersection between finance and society, and sports/health.

Starting with an introduction to the class and learning processes, we will cover academic ground ranging from our “What’s Next?” college admissions essay writing unit, to our Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury) informative essay section, and finally with our argumentative writing unit addressing the issues presented in John Carreyrou’s investigative book Bad Blood. We will also explore the world of Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton) and 1984 (George Orwell) in the latter half of the year. Classes will cover salient topics from the texts through discussions, writing activities, reading of relevant supporting material, and creative projects. Each unit will culminate with a final essay project. We will also strive to build a challenging, engaging, and safe learning community that pushes students to actively reflect on the relevance of the texts in their lives and to society as a whole. Our goal of preparing students for success beyond high school by becoming emergent critical thinkers, capable writers, and ardent readers continues.

English II with Ms. Gold - In English II, BTI students are wrapping up a unit on the ethics of selecting the genetic traits of a child and will soon immerse in Aldous Huxley’s novel, Brave New World, which tells the story of a future dystopia that uses genetic engineering to manufacture and control its citizens. They will wrap up the semester developing a vision for a utopian high school.

English III with Ms. Gold - We began the semester writing narrative essays and are just starting Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which examines the motivations and ethical challenges of a scientist. We will also explore the book through a psychological lens—looking at the light and shadow sides of the mad scientist and monster archetypes. We will hold a mock trial for Frankenstein and the monster, and then will delve into the bioethics of recreational genomics and argument writing.

Biomanufacturing with Ms. Burndon - students will begin the year by designing our start-up companies and completing onboarding as “new hires”, and then we will move into a complex skills-building project where students will manufacture and test Taq DNA Polymerase, a key expensive component in PCR reactions. We will end the semester with the popular Urease Medical Device Project, where students use low-tech materials and their Biotech skills to design an alternative to dialysis.

Biomanufacturing with Professor Nick Kapp from Skyline - He engaged students in thinking about manufacturing and quality through a paper airplane contest! How fun is that?

summer science - bti students at work!

EPIC through Cal Poly and Forensics

S. M.: This summer I participated in science-based virtual programs called EPIC through Cal Poly and Forensics through Georgetown University. In the forensics program, I was able to speak to forensics analysis experts and former police detectives learning about ballistics, DNA fingerprinting, blood analysis, and more. EPIC is a week-long engineering and programming course. I learned about circuit boards and using Arduino to build a Rube-Goldberg machine and how to do some basic programming in Python.

https://epic.calpoly.edu/ https://summer.georgetown.edu/programs/SHS13/forensic-science-academy

Boston Leadership Institute’s Biotech Research

A.S.: Over the summer I spent two weeks in the Boston Leadership Institute’s Biotech Research program. I did several labs, including an ELISA lab, where I tested samples for SARS-CoV-2; a Gel Filtration Chromatography lab, where I observed how different molecules separate based on shape and size; and a bacterial transformation lab, where I manipulated the E. coli by introducing GFP to make it glow. We looked into different sides of the argument about the effectiveness of CRISPR in relation to its popularity and wrote about our personal standpoint. We also looked into how specific genomes impact cancer’s progression in the body. I had a great time during the camp, and I was able to take away many new skills. Most prominently, I improved my lab skills and ability to delegate different tasks to teammates. I had a very memorable experience at camp, and I might go again in future years.

You can check out the courses offered by BLI at: https://www.bostonleadershipinstitute.com/

Aspiring Scholars Directed Research Program

A.F.: Over the summer, I performed synthetic organic chemistry research at the Aspiring Scholars Directed Research Program (ASDRP). I was guided by an advisor and worked with other student researchers on projects focusing on chemical neuroscience, cancer drug selectivity, and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors. I learned so much about organic chemistry, lab techniques, and the cutting-edge instruments we used to analyze our results! This experience has fueled my interest in science and exposed me to endless possibilities for innovation. This semester, I am continuing my research at ASDRP and am excited to expand on my knowledge.

building BTI community

Save the date - upcoming events

  • Sept 17: BTI Lunchtime Social - Otter Pops and Among Us
  • Oct 22: BTI Lunchtime Social - Slime Time
  • Nov 9: Junior Mentor Kick-Off
  • Nov 19: BTI Lunchtime Social - Pie Feast

BTI's First in-person social!

Notebook decorating & popsicle treats!

It's the simple things that matters... good friends, fun activities and sugary treats! What's not to love? BTI students kicked off the new academic year with their first in-person social in August. You can just see the joy in their eyes, masks and all! Good times!


Parents - Join IN!


Calling for Volunteers

A Message from Faith Velschow - Director of Mentoring and WORK-BASED LEARNING

The BTI Program has been so successful over the past six years because of its unique combination of dedicated teachers, committed students, engaged parents, and a supportive biotech community. So thank you for making this program possible for our science-minded teens! Now, we are asking for your help:

Be a professional mentor to our bti juniors

Do you work in the BIOTECHNOLOGY industry and are you interested in MENTORING a high school student? We are looking for industry mentors for 54 science-minded juniors.

It's a vital part of the BTI junior experience

Want to make a difference in a teenager's life? Had a mentor yourself or wish you had? It's easy...just share your work experience through easy communication - email, phone, Zoom, and hopefully some in-person this year.

Mentoring program

The mentor program will pair students with professionals to discuss both academic and career goals. The students' career interests are wide-ranging from engineering, programming, and sales to working directly in a laboratory. I'm hoping that you, or someone that you know, might be able to participate in this program as a mentor. COMMITMENT: Approximately 2-3 hours per month, with most interactions done remotely, either through Zoom, email, phone, or text messages from November 2021 to May 2022. FIRST INTRODUCTORY MEETING: The first meeting is planned for November 9th. For the initial meeting, since it is such a large group, we will ask you to Zoom in to meet your mentee and then will look for opportunities for you and your mentee to meet 1:1.

Send an email to Faith Velschow, fvelschow@seq.org, and she will reach out to you for the next steps. The sign-up deadline is Oct 1. If you have any questions, check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

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 Faith Velschow, Director of Mentoring and Work-Based Learning, fvelschow@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

A fully funded BTI program requires $150,000 per year. Fortunately, Sequoia Union High School District provides at least half that amount every year. The rest is raised by corporate donations, grants, and contributions by BTI parents through CAF. Meeting our financial goal covers many special benefits and especially ensures that Carlmont is able to dedicate two sections of Biotechnology 3-4 specifically for BTI students. This allows the BTI juniors to enjoy their own unique biotechnology curriculum and smaller class sizes.

Please consider donating to CAF to help support Carlmont and this amazing academic and professional three-year program that provides a strong learning community for our teens with content and experiences that they find relevant and challenging. Thanks to our partnership with CAF, when you donate, you can allocate up to 90% of your contribution to the BTI program. We encourage you to donate generously to both Carlmont and BTI.


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 fvelschow@seq.org
  • 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!

awe...the first few weeks of bti

contact information

  • Directors of BTI: Ms. Abdilla at jabdilla@seq.org and Ms. Gold at sgold@seq.org
  • Director of Mentoring & Work-Based Learning: 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!