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

A note from the editor

Volume 1 Issue 4

It was just one year ago that my daughter and her BTI friends were scrambling during their senior year to jump through all the hoops required to apply to college. This time of year can feel as exciting as it is daunting for seniors and their parents. But something else happens during this process and that is a time of reflection, if only for a moment because it is one deadline after another. So for this issue, the issue that features our BTI senior class, I would like to share some of my reflections of how I see BTI which not only prepared my daughter for her marine biology major, but also provided distinct advantages to the college application process.

While most seniors worry about their GPA, test scores, content for personal statements and quite frankly a whole resume of achievements to feel that they have a shot at the college of their choice, BTI students enter this process leveraging a unique academic program that sets them apart in many ways. Their small-learning community offers the advantage of an in-depth, cross-curricular understanding of the academic objectives across three years, advanced scientific literacy and lab skills, creative project-based learning experiences, relationships with professionals, internships, as well as earning college credit. Moreover, BTI students also have access to all of Carlmont High School’s robust programs from AP classes outside of BTI, sports, music, journalism, clubs…you name it. On the supporting side of the college application process, BTI seniors have a knowledgeable dedicated school counselor, Ms. Miller, who helps guide students in highlighting how to best position themselves as BTI students in the application. They also have Ms. Pierce who spends the beginning of the school year helping students write their personal statements that she will reread for them as many times as students ask. They also have deep relationships with their BTI teachers who get to know them exceptionally well and who tirelessly write letters of recommendations for not only college apps, but also scholarships. While neither the BTI program, nor taking 10 AP classes and being class president can guarantee any high school student acceptance into the college of their choice, I feel strongly that BTI is a program that helped my daughter distinguish herself in the college application process. Good luck to all the seniors as they wait to hear. And remember, 100% of last year's BTI class all started college this fall. Vol 1- Issue 1 summarized those successes. - Cheers! Cheryl Shelmadine

And now, let’s see what this year's graduating seniors are up to…


The first part of the semester was all about the personal statement for college. I was amazed that almost every student diligently went through the revising, editing, and proofreading stages--three drafts! [Thank you so much, Ms. Pierce, for your support, guidance and editing feedback you gave to our seniors during this stressful time of college applications. Your help is invaluable!]

We then read 1984, and had a lot of discussion about suppression of science and scientists in an authoritarian society. We also talked about the dangers vs. the benefits of technology. They don’t want to think about it, but now they can’t help themselves (it keeps coming up on the margins of everything we talk about). In December, we were hip deep in Renaissance philosophy, religion, and science in Hamlet. They were confused at first, but it came together. This semester we will continue with dystopian novels, like Never Let Me Go, thanks to a grant we just received from the PTSA.


Students in economics this semester have learned about the concepts and institutions that govern their individual financial decisions and how individual markets work. In addition, we have explored our government’s role in stabilizing the economy and addressing market failures. We wrapped up the semester with a unit on how consumer choices, business’ decisions, and government policies affect the United States’ role in a global economic system. Please challenge your students by asking them to explain how the Federal Reserve uses monetary policy to stabilize the economy.

This semester in American Government we are launching into a fast semester long exploration of government institutions. We will compare different systems of government, analyze the history and changing interpretations of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, investigate the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government and understand how public policy is developed and implemented. During this first unit on political engagement, students will create board games that demonstrate their knowledge of the extremely complicated presidential election system including primaries, party conventions, general election, electoral college and the role of media. Students will graduate this course better prepared to vote and participate in our political system.


Biomanufacturing is a 3 unit dual credit course taught by Ms. Burndon, M.A., and Professor Kapp, Ph. D at Skyline College. In the fall, students in Biomanufacturing focused on project management skills and the manufacturing of Biotech products. This class also hosted a very successful booth at the Bay Area Science Festival in early November, where they helped hundreds of younger children learn about science. [This was featured in the previous newsletter - Issue 3]. Their final project for the fall semester culminated in an innovative group project which involved designing and prototyping a medical device using the enzyme urease to help treat kidney disease. [Keep scrolling to take an in-depth look at this project.]

This semester, our seniors will expand on the skills acquired this fall to now develop their own biotech product. They are working in pairs to come up with project ideas for their final manufacturing project. The requirements are for students to manufacture at least 30 units of a biotechnology product of their choosing and to test their products thoroughly before presenting them at the final poster presentation which will be on Monday, May 20th from 5:30-7 pm in U20 at Carlmont. Currently, they are refining their favorite ideas as well as developing a back-up plan, and will soon start trial runs to determine feasibility. Once they have a proof of concept, they will write-up a full project plan including packaging, advertising and manufacturing before actually making their products.

What our Seniors are saying...

What has the BTi Program meant to you?

  • It not only gave me an amazing series of interesting classes with wonderful teachers but also a community in which I always felt welcome. AM
  • The BTI program gives me a way to be a part of the school and learn exactly what I love. I don’t need to wait until college to focus entirely on science. BTI also gives me the community and support group to do well and better myself. We have been together for nearly three years, we are not classmates but a family. BTI gives me a purpose. RG
  • The Biotech program has further developed my understanding of science while making it fun and enjoyable. The past three years have been full of amazing people and memories I will take with me beyond my high school career. MB

What words of encouragement would you give to a science-minded freshman who is considering BTI?

  • It will probably be the best decision of your high school career. Being a part of a like-minded community will do you wonders in your academic endeavors. AM
  • If you are worried about not having AP classes or a traditional English class, don’t. So many high schoolers follow the same cookie cutter process thinking they need to have the best GPA because that’s what colleges want. BTI gives you a chance to stand out and if you do love science, you will be standing out and following your passion. If you are a literature lover like me, you will not be cheated out of traditional novels, you get an experience to look at similar novels in a different way. RG
  • If I could go back in time to freshman year I would have chosen to do BTI all over again. BTI has been an amazing experience and will really test your scientific thinking. MB
Sensational Seniors....and our BTI tee-shirt designer extraordinaire!


Final Fall project - the future of Kidney Dialysis


“Dialysis is a necessary treatment for kidney failure because toxins [notably urea] from the blood must be filtered out of the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, kidney failure can cause inflammation, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Even though these symptoms can be eased from dialysis, the procedure itself can cause unwanted side effects such as possible weight gain or infection. Depending on which dialysis method is recommended, the National Kidney Foundation states that the procedure is also very time consuming and could occur from 3 times a week to every day. Our device would not necessarily replace dialysis completely but make the process more efficient to decrease the number of times a patient would have to use a dialysis machine.” -BG


“Our goal was to create a product which will clean the blood the same way as dialysis but is portable and easy to use. The device we created has the same function as hemodialysis, where it cleans the blood outside of your body, but can be carried with a person, removing the time taken to visit clinics or sit at home with a dialysis machine. It does this by removing blood and running it through tubing which flows through pockets that function to break down and remove harmful substances before returning the blood into the body.” - JZ


“We have created small beads consisting of an 4:3 ratio of 3% sodium alginate, and urease, that we extracted from ground soybeans. Urease is an enzyme that breaks urea back down into ammonia. However, of course we don't want ammonia reentering the patient's bloodstream, so we created a 5% concentrated zirconium phosphate and sodium alginate bead. The purpose of the zirconium phosphate is to trap the ammonia, while still allowing the rest of the healthy blood to pass through. The design of our product is meant for the blood to pass each of the beads, and re enter the bloodstream as pure and as fast as possible.” -GH

Biotech solution

“Together, our team made a new and improved product to help patients who live off dialysis. Our product consists of three chambers connected by tubes. The blood flows in through the top of the first chamber and in the first chamber, we have urease beads to break down the urea, which creates ammonia. The blood will then flow through a tube that connects to the second chamber, which contains the zirconium phosphate beads to neutralize the ammonia created. Then, the blood will flow into the last chamber, which will then be flowed back into the body.” -EA

Wow! Impressive! Can you believe how these BTI students are taking science to the next level?

Earning college credit

One of the many exciting benefits of Carlmont's Biotechnology Institute is that our BTI students earn transferable college credit to California's public universities (UC/CSU). The following table shows how BTI students earn college credit from their science coursework.

English IV Final - Fall 2018

Shakespeare at Carlmont High...BTI students work in small groups to perform an original Shakespearian performance, written, directed and performed by none other that our senior BTI students.

Live Shakespearean performance

BTI Social events

thanksgiving pie feast

BTI students take a moment to give thanks for a respite from studying, an amazing BTI community, teachers who make these events possible, and of course, for a smorgasbord of pies. What's not to love?

Not a morsel to spare...

BTI Study Night for Finals

Carlmont's BTI teachers hosted a study night before finals where they made themselves available to answer any questions the students had before finals. Wow...what dedication!

Hot chocolate, cider & a movie

There is nothing like the warmth of hot chocolate, the sweetness of homemade cookies and the relaxation of a good holiday movie to relieve the stress and craziness of finals. As you can see, our BTI teachers are dedicated to the happiness and well-being of our teens! We are so lucky and appreciative to have them. THANK YOU!

What a turnout!

Chemistry beverage event

In chemistry for biotech, student groups concluded a semester long project-based learning experience by showcasing their beverage to 10th grade students. The chemistry project required that students create then chemically and nutritionally analyze a beverage. Through this process students dove into a deeper understanding of solution chemistry, ionic and covalent compounds, calorimetry, chemical structure, and taste and smell. At the BTI beverage showcase, junior students shared taste samples of their beverage and a poster including a nutritional facts label, chemical structures, and drink analysis. Sophomore students evaluated and ranked the beverages and posters.

Just look at those creative titles!

cabin fever

With the winter storms rearing their windy heads, BTI students hunker down indoors to partake in an afternoon of fun and games. From ping-pong, to lanyards, to friendship bracelets and decorating notebooks, once again, our dedicated BTI teachers sponsored a January social event to build a strong, united BTI community. This is truly a special program that addresses the "whole" child.

bti club

The BTI Club president gave a lunch-time presentation titled, “Dangerous Foods” on January 18, and the club hosted a lunch-time potluck on January 25. The club leaders are organizing their annual after-school social, which will take place March 15, 2019 in the Student Union from 12:30 - 2:30 (Minimum Day). There will be lots of food, games, and a chance for students to hang out with their BTI family.

Calling all freshmen for the BTI class of 2022

BTI is looking for 60 science-minded freshmen to join their community in the 2019-2020 school year. BTI staff and student reps will head out to freshmen Biology classes to give a presentation about the opportunities and benefits of the program. Applications will be posted on the BTI website on February 5 and must be received by 11:59 PM on Wednesday, February 27. Parents, please help us get the word out! We do not want any interested student left behind. Feel free to share this newsletter link with interested families.

Internships - applications due March 1

The San Mateo County Office of Education has partnered with three local biotechnology companies to offer students in the county paid summer internships. BTI students who will be 16 years old by June 14 are encouraged to apply. For more information about these and other internship possibilities, visit this page: http://www.smcoe.org/parents-and-students/career-and-technical-education-(cte)/internship-program/ - or click on the Internship Website button. Applications are due March 1.

Upcoming schedule of events

  • February 13 - Show BTI Some Love - Valentine's day Party - Bring some sweets to share.
  • February 13 - Science Series Lecture - Howard Rose - CEO and Design Director, Firsthand Technology (Virtual Reality company specializing in applications for healthcare, education, and research)
  • March 6 - Science Series Lecture - Stephen Quake, Co-President, Chan Zuckerberg Biohub and Lee Otterson Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics, Stanford University
  • March 14 - College Information Meeting by Ms. Miller- 5:30 - before Open House
  • March 14 - Open House The sophomores and juniors will have booths to present their quarter-long, cross-curricular projects in the U20 and U21 labs.
  • March 15 - Annual After-School BTI Club Social Event - 12:30 to 2:30 at the Student Union.
  • March 21 - BTI Parent Mix & Mingle - Parents, please join us at the home of Kevin & Leslie Marks for our second parents only mixer.
  • April 10 - Science Series Lecture - Diego Rey, Visiting Partner at Y Combinator
  • May 20 - BTI Biomanufacturing Presentation - Seniors present their products. 5:30-7 pm in U20
  • May 30 -BTI Mentor Thank-You event
  • June 6 - BTI's 2019 Senior Graduation - 6:30 at the Performing Arts Center at Carlmont

How you can help

There are many ways you can contribute to the BTI program. As you have seen, the BTI program takes a comprehensive approach to developing the "whole" teen. With its cross-curricular, science-centric approach to its academics, to the rich development and influence from professionals in the field, to the robust social and scientific events, Carlmont's BTI program requires both financial and professional support.

  • If you can donate time and would like to help with some events or join the parent development committee, email fvelschow@seq.org.
  • 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
  • And finally, if you can donate to BTI through CAF, that is our biggest need. In order for this program to be sustainable, raising the funds to provide this educational opportunity is imperative.

BTI requires an annual budget of $150K, and this year, between the generous contributions from the school district, corporate and private sponsors, we have a confirmed $74K. We have a goal of raising $105,000 to cover this year's expenses and give us a head start for next year. Thanks to the generous contributions many of you made on Giving Tuesday in November, we earned the full $5000 matching donation in addition to the funds raised! Remember, 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: $28,355
  • Carl Perkins State Grant through Sequoia School District: $29,000
  • Funds needed to meet our goal: $47,645

sensational seniors

We are all so proud of our BTI seniors! They are a talented, inquisitive and impressive group of dedicated students who have blossomed in the BTI program. As a group, they have significantly contributed to helping shape and grow this program. We look forward to seeing what biotech products this group produces for their final project this spring. Stay tuned for that!

We hope you enjoyed this month's overview of our senior class and all the amazing events and activities that are at the disposal to our BTI students. As this 4th issue ends, and the second half of the school year begins, I hope this BTI Parent and Community newsletter provides you with a window into what is so special about this program. Stay tuned for our next issue that will feature some of our BTI graduates as they begin their college journey!

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!

Past Editions

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