Meet the Juniors Carlmont's Biotechnology Institute: A Parent & Community Newsletter

A note from the editor

Volume 1 Issue 3

This issue is dedicated to our BTI junior class. In just a few moments, you are going to be able to take a peek into the many exciting educational and professional experiences that our BTI junior students are enjoying. But before introducing you to the junior class, I want to talk to you about Pride, Support, and Giving.

PRIDE: As far as we, the BTI Development Committee, can tell, Carlmont’s Biotechnology Institute is the only program like it in the country. Our students have access to state-of-the-art biotech labs and science curriculum, and the BTI teachers spend an inordinate amount of time developing a science-centric, cross-curricular, project-based curriculum so that students can construct a deeper understanding and appreciation of how history, English, ethics, and science all affect each other.

SUPPORT: Without the support from the following people, this amazing program would not exist: Sequoia Union High School District superintendent, Mary Streshly; Carlmont’s principal, Mr. Crame and his administration, Faith Velschow, the director of mentoring and volunteers, and of course all of the BTI teachers, including Ms. Gold and Ms. Abdilla, who co-direct the program. Our corporate sponsors and professional volunteers are also essential to this program. We have an active parent-led development committee, and the well-attended parent Mix and Mingle was a significant step toward building a strong, supportive, involved parent community.

GIVING: This is where we come in. The BTI program is four years strong. It requires an annual budget of $150K, and this year, between the generous contributions from the school district, corporate and a private sponsors, we have a confirmed $74K. We need to raise $76K to meet this year’s budget but have set a goal of $105K. This year is the first year that we parents can contribute to funding the BTI program through CAF. When you contribute to CAF, you can direct a percentage of your contribution to the BTI program. Check with your employer to see if they do corporate matching! Matching funds, too, can be allocated to the BTI program. Also, if you have any fundraising ideas, please let us know! We really need your support to make this happen. Thank you so much!

  • Goal: $105,000
  • Current BTI Donations through CAF: $ 6855.00.
  • Carl Perkins State Grant through Sequoia School District: $29,000.
  • Funds needed to meet our goal: $69,125.

And now, let’s see what those juniors are up to…


In English III, students have just finished reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which examines the motivations and ethical challenges of a scientist. Students are now preparing to put Victor Frankenstein and the monster on trial for the murders of four characters in the novel.

Was Victor Frankenstein negligent when he created a being through unnatural means? What responsibility did he have to his creature? Was the monster evil by nature? Or was it repeated rejection that led to his antisocial behavior? These are the questions the prosecution and defense teams will address.

Social Studies

The juniors have recently had their first mentor breakfast where they got to meet with and get to know their mentors for the first time. They are now able to communicate and chat more personally with their mentors and will be reaching out by phone call next week to ask them questions about their jobs, roles, and experiences from their life's work and try to glean any "pearls of wisdom" that could help guide the BTI students in their future endeavors. They have also been collaborating with partners in class researching and presenting about various business tycoons from the Second Industrial Revolution such as Andrew Carnegie, JP Morgan, and John D Rockefeller to learn about how and why they were able to make such grandiose fortunes, and determine whether they were robber barons or captains of industry (heros or villains). The goal of this project presentation was for students to learn about the content (industries, labor practices, working conditions) of the time period, determining these industrial tycoons' impacts on society, as well as to reflect on whether these various business practices are ones they would consider taking up one day.

Biotechnology 3/4

The juniors have spent the semester learning how to clone plants using several techniques - stem and leaf cutting in different media, stem cuttings in rooting hormone solutions, and they will end the semester with a tissue culture clone of an African violet. Besides learning about the anatomy of plants, and the "birds and the bees" by using bee butts to pollinate their Wisconsin fast plants, Biotech 3 students have been working on their long-term data collection skills. Next semester we look forward to making our own environmentally-friendly cleaning products and testing their efficacy around campus.

Chemistry for Biotech

In Chemistry for Biotech, students spent the first unit investigating the link between smells and chemical structures. Students discovered the structural functional groups related to sweet, minty, fishy, and putrid smells. The unit ended in a lab with students synthesizing a "wintergreen" smell. Currently we our doing the Create a Beverage Project, where student teams create a beverage and then nutritionally and chemically analyze the ingredients. Through this PBL experience, students learn about types of compounds, solution properties, conductivity, food chemistry & energy, and measuring.

What our juniors are saying....

What does the BTi Program mean to you?

  • It's a community where I know everyone and where I can learn more about science. It allows me to grow and think critically and collaboratively with others. - MR
  • The BTI program means to me a place where we can interact with people with similar interests and explore a scientific career with opportunities we would most likely not be able to have, such as field trips and mentorships. - VGT
  • Learning more about science with other people who enjoy science instead of people who are required to take their science course. - MM

Describe one positive experience in the BTI community.

  • I love the science related English books and assignments and I loved talking about designer babies last year. We had some awesome discussions because we all were so engaged and interested in everything. - KE
  • Thanks to the BTI staff, I’ve been given opportunities to experience working in a science field over the summer. BTI has allowed me to express my passion for science. - TP
  • When I was feeling down one day, the whole bti community was really helpful and they helped me through what I was going through. - DA

Junior Mentor Breakfast

November 6, 2018

Juniors meet their mentors

One of the highlights of the BTI experience is the mentor program for our junior students. Each junior is matched with a professional whose career they would like to explore. This year, these special relationships commenced on November 6 with the Mentor Breakfast, where students got acquainted with their mentors over bagels and coffee. Students and mentors will have weekly contact until the beginning of May, and students will even get to shadow their mentors at work one day.

Mentors are often surprised by the positive impact the program has not only on the mentee, but on the mentor as well! Our program is a great place to mentor because while we do not ask for a big time commitment, we feel that the impact is significant. Mentors/Mentees communicate via email, text and in person; developing mentee communication skills and offering career exploration. Some of the key activities include:

  • January - SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant & Time-bound) goal development
  • February - Job Shadow
  • March - Career Fair
  • April - Check in and summer plan discussion
  • May - Final Mentor Event

In addition, this year we are leveraging the curriculum from Stanford's Seeds of Change research project - an educational research initiative to provide tools and frameworks for high school girls of all backgrounds to persist and advance to leadership. All mentors/mentees will be reviewing their resources, discussing the topics and taking action to address these issues within their own lives.

We are grateful to Faith Velschow, Director of Mentors and Volunteers, and networker extraordinaire, for finding exceptional people to work with our juniors. To make sure the mentor/mentee relationships flourish, Faith provides training for all involved. She also frequently visits the classroom to give assignments, which encourage students to connect with their mentors and build their communication skills.

we are honored to introduce our mentors:

juniors explore at the california academy of science

On October 9th, the BTI Junior Class kicked off the year with a fun-filled day at the California Academy of Science exploring the aquarium, planetarium, and the natural history museum. Exploration, explanation and sustainability are at the heart of the science academy. BTI students traversed through the Steinhart Aquarium, home of the largest and deepest indoor reef in the world, to the lavish four-story rainforest, to the living roof, as well as many other innovative exhibits. With their many initiatives, the California Academy of Science is certainly a place to inspire the next generation of BTI students to be good stewards of our planet. It was a day of learning, experiencing, and friendship.

science in action

Bay Area Science Festival at AT&T Park

With more than 150 exhibits hosted by universities, science museums, research labs, after-school groups, and local companies, kudos goes to Ms. Burndon, Dr. Kapp, and our very own senior BTI biomanufacturing student volunteers for spending the day at AT&T Park on November 3, 2018. They provided a hands-on kinetic sand interactive exhibit for Bay Area students to experience. Way to pay it forward!

Carlmont's Science Series lectures

Students and parents are invited to attend Carlmont's Science Guest Lecture Series made possible through the generous support of Roche Diagnostics. This fall, we had the privilege of hearing from Dr. Hua Tu, Chairman and CEO of LakePharma, Lee Boman, Director of Palo Alto Advanced Technology Center, and Chris Bakan, Head of Sequencing Bioinformatics at Roche Sequencing Solutions.

Hua Tu described his work at LakePharma, a leading biologics service provider specializing in antibody and protein engineering, cell line development, protein production, and analysis. He discussed the many employment opportunities and skills needed in the increasingly automated world of the future.

Mr. Lee Boman dazzled the audience with his expertise in Material Science. He is an expert in fabrication technologies and provided a detailed overview on how semiconductor and other materials are made. For scientist who likes using both his/her mind and hands, material science is an interesting field to consider.

Ms. Bakan gave an inspiring lecture on hope and possibility titled, "The Future of Patient-Centered Cancer Care and Research". She discussed the incredible advancements being made in the field of cancer detection and treatment by leveraging advanced genetic diagnostic technology and culling through terabytes of medical data to develop treatment protocols that map to an individual's DNA make-up resulting in better treatment outcomes. Amazing! The field of Bioinformatics is in its infancy and holds a lot of promise for budding scientists.

BTI Club & Social Events

bti club

The student-led BTI Club meets at lunch on Fridays in T2, Ms. Gold's classroom. In October, club presentations and activities all centered on the theme of Halloween. They learned about spooky-looking marine life, and scientific explanations for the paranormal. They also conducted an experiment putting apple slices in cups with either vinegar, oil, or water so they could compare the rate at which the apples would rot over a month's time. So far, in November there have been student presentations on biotech in the news, the Fermi Paradox, and quantum mechanics in our everyday lives. They also had a potluck and watched a video on the psychology and neuroscience of addiction.


Our BTI teachers have been busy organizing BTI social events to build a strong spirit of community and kinship among the BTI students. It seems that this group is always up to some inventive fun and games. Who doesn't love an ice cold popsicle on a warm fall day!

Halloween Slime EXTRAVAGANZA

Witches and goblins and SLIME...oh my! Our BTI teachers went above and beyond the call of duty to host this fun-filled event. Just look at the creative stations they designed....

Who knew that science can be so fun and that our high school teens could so easily connect with their inner child :-)! Just look at all the slime!

Mix and Mingle for parents

Kevin and Leslie Marks hosted our first parent Mix and Mingle for BTI parents. Kevin Marks, President of the BTI Development Committee, wanted to create an opportunity for new BTI parents to meet current and alumni BTI parents to learn more about the program, get any questions answered, and mostly to build a strong, vibrant, connected parent community. It was a very successful, well-attended and enjoyable social event so much in fact, that we are planning another Mix and Mingle sometime next semester. We look forward to meeting more of you then!

Upcoming schedule of events

  • November 20th - Thanksgiving Pie Feast - Bring a pie to share with your BTI family
  • November 27th - Giving Tuesday - Please remember to make your donations to CAF and BTI.
  • December 11 - Holiday Movie Lunch - enjoy some hot chocolate, hot cider, and holiday cookies. Relax and enjoy time with your BTI friends and bring treats to share!
  • December 13 - BTI Study Night - 5:30-8:30 Room U21. Bring $5 for pizza, snacks and drinks.

BTi Sweatshirt - order by Nov 23

Please submit your order and payment online by Friday, November 23. Cost: $28.88 (+$3.00 for 2XL and +$4.00 for 3XL) Sweatshirts should arrive by December 10th.


By all accounts, our BTI Juniors are taking their scientific talents and minds to the next level. We hope you enjoyed this month's glimpse into the many enriching events and academic endeavors that the BTI program provides to our teens.

Stay tuned for our next issue that will feature our BTI Senior class!

contact information

  • Susan Gold - Co-Director of BTI: sgold@seq.org
  • Jaime Abdilla - Co-Director of BTI: jabdilla@sep.org
  • Faith Velschow - Director of Mentoring and Career Services: fvelschow@seq.org 650-591-7502
  • Kevin Marks – President of the BTI Development Committee: kevin.marks@roche.com
  • Cheryl Shelmadine - Sophomore Parent Rep and newsletter editor: service@copyteclegal.com
  • Tanya Rianda - Junior Parent Rep: tanya.rianda@gmail.com
  • Kim McGreivy - Senior Parent Rep: kmcgreivy@live.com

Please feel free to submit articles, stories and/or photos to the editor of our Parent & Community BTI newsletter. We would love to feature what your amazing BTI student is up to!

go bti scots!

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