Scientists at work Carlmont's Biotechnology Institute: A Parent & Community Newsletter

a special note from the superintendent

Dr. Mary streshly

Volume 1 Issue 6

A model for the nation, Carlmont’s Biotechnology Institute (BTI) is the future of education, as we know it.

A cross-curriculum program that brings the biotechnology industry to life by merging academia with professionals in the industry, BTI makes a career in biotechnology a possibility for our students.

As an added benefit, our students receive dual enrollment units from Skyline College, thus ensuring that the momentum built in Carlmont’s classrooms propels our students directly into college with a competitive advantage.

As I think about the future of education, in my mind, there is no doubt that the classrooms of tomorrow will look precisely like BTI. Our students have made it clear that experiential learning is the preferred method of learning as they get the unique opportunity of immersing themselves into their passion.

As superintendent, I am proud of our BTI classrooms, and I can not wait for our students to change the world.

BTI's Capstone Dual Credit Course

Biomanufacturing - Ms. Burdon & Dr. Kapp

These BTI seniors have honed their science and lab skills for three years, preparing for Biomanufacturing, the capstone science course of the CTE biotechnology pathway. Taught only to BTI students, this college-level course, Biomanufacturing I and II, covers the interactions between research into biological processes, the active lab, production facility, final processing, quality control, and government oversight and regulation in the biotechnology product pipeline. The focal point of this year-long curriculum is that BTI seniors develop an original biotech product by following the same path as the development of a drug or pharmaceutical from inception to market. They undertake the biological research of a molecule or compound, to the development, production, testing, analysis and marketing of their product. These projects will knock your socks off! We are so proud of what they have accomplished! See for yourself!

Go forth and change the world Class of 2019!

Beary Healthy

Vegan gummy bears! What's not to love! These BTI students developed nutritious gummy bears made out of spinach, kale, dried peas, mango juice and agar rich with vitamin C, iron and calcium. So step right up! A new and yummy supplement for our kids and adults alike!


Are you aware that insulin is expensive to produce? Diabetics in the US are seeing skyrocketing prices for insulin, so these BTI students set out to develop a low-cost approach to making insulin. They did this by blending a pig pancreas and suspending it in an EDTA buffer which separates the proteins in the pancreas. With the addition of other additives like ethanol, they were able to isolate insulin from the other materials in the pancreas. They validated their results using a vertical gel and comparing it to a protein ladder. Once verified, they would further purify the insulin using chromatography. Their final true cost was $24.80. Wow! Impressive! Let's get going on this to drive down insulin costs!

Ananas drupe

These BTI students developed a lysozyme-based disinfectant. Lysozyme is an ideal agent, as it is an enzyme known for killing various bacteria. They extracted lysozyme from egg whites and combined it with distilled pineapple and mango extract for scent and additional antibacterial properties. They tested sterility using petri plates by swabbing an area before and after being cleaned by the cleaner to confirm the efficacy of their cleaner. It is amazing what creative minds can accomplish!

Hoppin' Gloss

Introducing you to the new and improved vegan lip gloss made from beet extract. These BTI students extracted the pigments from beets and combined them with moisturizing ingredients. They tested sterility of their product using petri plates which reveal the growth of bacteria if there is contamination and found that there was some contamination in their product. Their next step as a company would be to identify the contaminating processes and find ways to resolve them. Once addressed, these small one-time-use lip glosses are an all-natural vegan lip gloss. Simply unscrew the top and lather on your lips for a hoppin' poppin' time. Their gloss is easy to use and will last on your lips all night long.


Have you ever wondered what the best way is to clear your palate for the next course or wine tasting? Well, these students have developed a product that can do the trick! Their product will essentially "reset" your taste buds. Who knew? BTI students explain that when you eat, taste molecules get lodged in taste receptors on the tongue that send signals to the brain which interpret taste. By extracting tannins from grapes, they created a solution where the tannins move across the tongue and dislodge taste molecules from receptors, thereby clearing the palate. They used a wine tasting method developed in Australia to validate the concentration of tannins through spectrophotography. Contact these students before your next trip to Napa!

straws advanced

You cannot read a news article without an exposé on the impact of plastic straws in our oceans, the stomachs of marine life and on the devastating impact to our ecosystems. These BTI students developed the next generation of biodegradable straws using paper, paraffin wax and gelatin glue. To make a batch of biodegradable straws, you need a modest investment of $17.00 and a lot of ingenuity.


Fluoropaint is pigmented bacteria that these students combined with water-based glue to make florescent paint. They used the UV gel box to validate that the paint is indeed florescent. But if you are worried about bacteria all over your walls, don't! Their product has been autolysing for six months, so theoretically all the bacteria cells are dead and what remains are the pigmented proteins. So for your next starry night project on your ceiling, talk to these students about their fluoropaint.

Biobuddy Plastic

So it is not just plastic straws that are a concern, it is plastic in general. Did you know that the Ocean Conservatory has published that every year, 8 million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate our marine environments. To say this is a problem is an underestimation of the magnitude of this crisis. Enter - BTI students wanting to help solve this crisis. They developed a biodegradable plastic using ONLY water, agar and glycerol. This plastic easily degrades in soil and water. Agar is a product commonly used in food products and glycerol is a sweetener, so not only is this plastic biodegradable, it is also edible! What? While they do not recommend this as a food source for humans, they are more than willing to offer this plastic as food for bacteria. They tested the plastic biodegradable properties by placing it in soil, and after only a few weeks, many bacteria colonies formed on the plastic and are doing their job! This plastic can be used with any dry materials. Changing the world one innovation at a time!


Have you had to give up your double shot iced non-fat vanilla latte because your DNA no longer produces lactase needed to breakdown lactose into glucose when consuming dairy products? Well, Prolac to the rescue! Unlike the enzyme lactase supplements you can buy at Costco, prolac is a more lasting solution. The theory is that by taking one prolac pill a day for a specific duration, you can reestablish the production of lactase using modified bacteria that can create lactase. These BTI students used bacillus natto, bacteria found in soybeans. They grew this bacteria in a lactose rich environment so that the bacteria developed the lactase enyzme. They then took the bacteria culture, dehydrated it, and pressed it into pills. To validate their results, they added the modified bacteria into a PH indicator that contained lactose. They proved the bacteria actually metabolized lactose into glucose as CO2 is released during metabolization, thereby changing the PH indicator because CO2 creates an acidic environment. Their final next step is to test to see if the bacteria can survive the acidic environment of the stomach, and, if so, to then determine the proper dosage needed to develop a lactase-deficient cure! Hot fudge sundaes, here we come! Great progress, gentlemen!

EZ iron

Did you know that iron supplements can be made from only broccoli and spinach? These BTI students did! They took two parts broccoli and one part spinach, dehydrated them, and turned it into a powder. They then placed 200 mg of powder into each gelatin capsule. Their next step is to actually isolate the iron to increase the concentration of iron per pill. Let's hear it for the green iron machine!


Focused on the kid market, these BTI students developed a kid-friendly, pirate-themed vitamin C supplement. Tasting more like candy and less like pills, each piece contains 7 mg of vitamin C. A packet of 8-9 "candy-like" pieces day will meet the daily recommendation of 60 mg per day. You have to love their ingenuity...pirates, once plagued with scurvy, inspired their kid-friendly theme.


Yet another super impressive solution to our world-wide plastic crisis. Bio-Bubblz is an alternative to single-use plastic water bottles made from sodium alginate and calcium chloride. Sodium alginate comes from brown seaweed and dissolves in water in four days and soil in less than a week. To make the water bottles, the sodium alginate binds to calcium chloride to creates an outer shell so that the inside remains a soft liquid that you can drink while the outside retains its shape.


By adding 20 drops of Vegin into milk, you can make cheese in a matter of a few days. How, you may ask? By adding rennet, the principle ingredient of Vegin, which contains the enzyme chymosin that cuts the negative charge of the kappa casein protein in milk. Once the negative end of the chain is neutralized, it dissolves into the liquid. The proteins then start to bind together by linking with phosphate and calcium found in milk. This forms a bridge that joins the casein molecules together. Say, "Cheese," everyone! Say Vegin too!

Neo pine bloom

Neo Pine Bloom contains a pineapple enzyme, bromelain, known to helps with burns, removing dead skin off burns, and alleviating muscle soreness. This ointment is made in a sterile environment with all natural ingredients and is biodegradable. To to make this product, BTI students extracted bromelain from pineapple and combined it with beeswax and oils into an ointment. They tested the activity of bromelain by stirring it into gelatin—active bromelain will break down the bonds in the gelatin and keep it from solidifying. They did see a big difference in solidity between the bromelain gelatin and the control gelatin, so their enzyme was active. It is amazing what these students accomplished!

Eco Wipes

Our culture of convenience has caused unintended consequences including the accumulation of wet-wipes in our landfill due to the fact that wet wipes contain harsh plastics and chemicals that take a long time to breakdown. BTI students to the rescue! Try making wet wipes with bamboo fabric which is super sustainable and breaks down faster. That is what they did! Once they nailed the fiber, they focused on natural cleaning chemicals using thyme oil from thyme leaves and olive oil. These student demonstrate that you can have the convenience without causing undo harm to the environment.


Tired of taking Tums for indigestion. Bromakap to the rescue! These BTI students developed a natural solution using ground pineapple leaves. Bromaline, found in this pineapple material, is an enzyme with multiple purposes but mainly helps with pain and indigestion. It helps remove phosphate from foods which makes food harder to digest as well as helps in breaking down complex sugars. To extract Bromaline from pineapple leaves, the students ground and froze the material multiple times until they formed a powder. To validate their theory, they used jello in a tube. The control was jello only. The other tubes had the bromakap sample. Only the control formed into jello whereas the other samples stayed liquid proving that bromakap was active in the samples. Now don't you think that is a good use of pineapple leaves that otherwise get thrown away?


Novus, Latin for New, is a new natural moisturizer that contains the enzyme papain, which comes from papayas. This enzyme breaks down the keratin in dead skin cells, and the other ingredients in the moisturizer nourish the skin cells underneath once the dead skin cells are removed. Two other ingredients in Novus are EDTA and sodium chloride, which act as a buffer to make the enzyme active. To validate that the enzyme is active, they performed a gelatin test using a control with gelatin only and three other samples containing the moisturizer. Only the control solidified, proving that the enzyme is active in the other samples because papain was able to breakdown the gelatin proteins keeping the samples liquid. Save a bottle for me!


This biotech student developed a tissue regeneration technique in which you grow human tissue cells off of a decellularize collagen green leaf. Regenerose is a biocompatible graft so rather than growing or forming delicate microvasculature on its own, Regenerose builds its grafts off of pre-existing biological structures which can better replicate the intricate microvasculature of living organisms. The grafts were first cut to size and soaked with acetone to clean off any oily protective coating on the leaves. The grafts were then placed in a beaker filled with 10% SDS, which served as a detergent to remove the cellular contents of the grafts (aka: decellularizing), for five days on a shaker. The solution was then switched out for bleach and Triton X solution to finish off the decellularization process for another two days on the shaker. Finally the grafts were washed and packaged in 1X PBS, which keeps the graft pliable and sterile. She tested the sterility of the material on petri plates and saw no bacterial growth, proving sterility. Methods such as Regenerose can serve as a stepping stone from which to expand regenerative medicine to more complicated organs and tissue structures such as hearts, or lungs. Ok..is your head is spinning? These students are clearly ready to hit the ground running next year in college!

Open House showcase

SOPHOMORE science projects

Sophomores formed small groups of one to three students based on their personal interest and did a deep dive into a solution being developed in the field of biotechnology. Their research effort resulted in a detailed informational presentation to showcase their results, which was presented at Open House.


  • Cancer Treatment and Biotechnology
  • Bioprinting: The Future of Regenerative Medicine
  • Xenotransplantation: Designer Organs
  • De Extinction: Guess Who is Back?
  • Cytochrome p430 Tests
  • Aquadvantage Salmon
  • The Fingerprint of the Future: DNA and RNA
  • Car-T Cell Therapy
  • BioDiesel Fuel
  • Genetically Modified Organisms Around the World
  • Indifferent: Stem Cells in Biotechnology
  • A New Spin on Mood Swings
  • Sticks & Stones May Break your Bones but We Have Your Solution: Lab Grown Bones
  • BioArt: Crossing Biotechnology Sciences with Art
  • Algal Biofuels
  • The Blue Solution: Marine Biotechnology
  • Biotechnology vs. Clothing: Adding Specialized Bacteria to Cloth

junior science projects

Plant-Based Cleaning Product

Working in groups of three, students were asked to create an effective cleaning solution that includes at least two plant extracts produced in the lab. As they were making their cleaners, students were asked to consider two key criteria for their cleaning solution:

  1. Efficacy as an antimicrobial and antifungal cleaner
  2. Appeal - what makes a cleaner attractive to consumers? Are scent, color, and residue important?

To accomplish this, BTI students researched the cleaning and scent properties found in various plants and selected from a list of available plants including basil, chamomile, lavender, lemongrass and from a list of solvents including water, vinegar, rubbing alcohol, lemon juice to name just a few. They also took into consideration other compounds such as borax-sodium or baking soda and had to determine how they will all work together in a single solution. Once developed, they prepared 12 petri dishes to grow bacteria, and with a sharpie, divide each dish in half, Side A - control and Side B - swabbed with the disinfectant. After 24 hours in the incubator, students analyzed the efficacy of their disinfectant by comparing bacteria growth of side B with disinfectant compared to the control. They analyzed those results and made adjustments accordingly. Once their products were tested and perfected, students then came up with an ad campaign in their English class to bring their product to market. Humm...it makes me ponder how back in the day, we were just dissecting cow eyes in science class, and now high school BTI students are learning how to develop eco-friendly solutions through science and creativity. Impressive.

a Well-deserved award

ptsa honorary service award - teacher excellence

A heart-felt congratulations goes to Ms. Gold and Ms. Abdilla. BTI parent and member of the BTI Development Committee, Lilia Rauls, presented the award. She said, “Ms. Susan Gold and Ms. Jaime Abdilla are wonderful teachers and co-directors of Carlmont’s one-of-a-kind Biotechnology Institute. In its fourth year, this dynamic duo and their team of English, Social Studies, Chemistry and Biotech Teachers spend countless hours developing cross-curricular units. Thank you, Jaime and Susan, for your many contributions and dedication to the BTI program. There is not just one key example of how you have impacted this program, as every action has worked to improve the structure of BTI. In addition, you have taught students the technological, biological, social, ethical and moral issues of relevant and important topics that face our world today. On behalf of the parents and students, we appreciate you, and we are grateful for all that you do. Thank you.”

BTI events




Thanks to the generous folks at CytomX Therapeutics, our junior class spent the day touring labs and learning about new therapeutic antibodies used in the treatment of cancer. Employees donated their time and expertise to provide our BTI students with hands-on learning about new and cutting-edge developments in the field of cancer research and therapy. They also hosted a lunch so that students could speak with their staff about their career paths. We would like to thank our CytomX hosts for a wonderful and informative experience for all.

seniors visit Roche Diagnostics

Roche scientists gave BTI senior students detailed presentations on UPath and Navify (diagnostic software solutions) that showed students how innovation, technology and well-trained scientists can accomplish cutting-edge breakthroughs in the workplace. They also provided a manufacturing tour where students "gowned-up" and observed how what they learned in Biomanufacturing is put into practice. They also had a fascinating tour of the sequencing labs where students learned about a new field of nanopore-based sequencing. Students were given a guide to understand this complex and interesting technology. Roche employees then took the time to have lunch with the kids and talk about their career experiences. Those small-group conversations with professionals really make a difference. The swag bags, of course, were the icing on the cake.

BTI seniors were so enthusiastic on the bus ride back as they processed their experience. Some students talked about manufacturing processes and how to make their capstone projects more consistent and reliable. They were very thoughtful in their reflection and agreed the lab tour and technology presentation was compelling. Some also talked about their college and career plans and how conversations with Roche professionals helped them to consider new opportunities in science-related fields. These student conversations reminded us of how important it is for students to get to see professionals in their work environments.

senior day at the Ryptic Room Escape and Central Park in San Mateo

After a long three years of integrated science curriculum, seniors took a day off to celebrate their accomplishments with one another. I guarantee you that this cohort of BTI students will always remember the meaningful relationships they have built in this community, and as they head off to college, they are armed with superior science lab skills, innovative thinking, and a deep appreciation for the social and ethical issues that accompany emerging technologies and innovation. Here's to the seniors!

Mentor breakfast

The final event of the BTI Mentor Program is always a special one as mentors and mentees are happy to see each other and is the culmination of 6 months of working together. During that time, mentors share the path that they took to get where they are in their career today and mentees continue to develop their communication skills. Starting with professional emails and texts, an informational telephone interview, as well as a job shadow at the mentors place of work, and continuing through the development of a resume and learning about SMART goals. The ongoing communication and cadence of the program allows the relationship to continue to progress and results in the happy smiles you see here. Many mentors/mentees continue to stay in contact after the program "officially ends".

Interested in working with a student? Had a mentor that made an impact on you? If so, please contact Faith Velschow. Next year you could be featured here as well.

BTI Students thank their mentors

  • DB: Thank you so much for mentoring me this past year. You have given me so much good advice that I never even thought about considering.
  • AV: The job shadow was very informative and helpful in realizing my career path, and overall was a positive experience.
  • SL: I am really glad we got to know each other and worked well and communicated with each other.
  • CH: I really enjoyed being able to meet outside of our school planned events to catch up and hear about things going on at your work and life experiences I can learn from.
  • DA: I also want to thank you for going to my competition. It was really cool to see you supporting me!

Our amazing mentors

amazing accomplishments

another congratulations to this junior bti student!

He is back from his big week in Phoenix, Arizona at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2019. 1,800 students from all around the world (80 countries and regions) attended. His cello project was a big hit with fellow students and the ‘public’ in the open session – 4 ½ hours playing and explaining his project to people of all ages from all over. Evidently the judges quite liked what they heard too: he won both a Special Scholarship Award (from University of Arizona) and a 3rd in Category Award at the Grand Awards Ceremony!! Wow! That is so amazing! Congrats!

2019 Youth scholarship recipient

This senior BTI student is the recipient of the Youth Scholarship Award, sponsored by the City of San Carlos. The awards reception program read: [He] displayed an aptitude for numbers at an early age, but illness and an extended recovery forced him to recognize that success depends on tenacity as much as talent. References praise his responsibility, sincerity, and initiative to turn data into insights. As an intern in a laboratory's shipping department, he developed a tracking app to improve efficiency. As a supporter of Carlmont sports, he compiled basketball stats into analysis reports for the coaches. He plans on attending a four year college to study computer science or biochemistry.

BTI Student is next student trustee of school board

This BTI student has been selected to serve as the next student trustee and will help provide the members of the SUHSD School Board a student's perspective at their meetings during the 2019-2020 school year. Mr. Crame recommended him to this position, as he has demonstrated an extraordinary level of commitment to Carlmont High School, earning a sterling reputation among students and staff campus-wide. He is mature beyond his years, personable and warm. He has served Carlmont as a member of the Associated Student Body for two years, this year as the Media Supervisor, and has accumulated over 200 volunteer hours with the Carlmont Technical Theatre Association. He is enthusiastic about science and is a beloved student in the Biotechnology Institute (BTI). His teachers have expressed great appreciation for his engagement in the program and the way he always volunteers to assist students and staff with technical support. His tireless volunteerism also extends beyond the campus, where he built a strong network within local government and community organizations. He just retired from a two-year position as the City of Belmont Youth Advisory Liaison Member and from a two-year position as the City of Belmont Park and Recreation Commissioner. For the past two years, he has also served as a board member for the City of Belmont Save the Music Program. Congratulations to you! Impressive!

How parents, donors & Companies have helped

Financial support- We Met our goal!

As you know, BTI requires an annual budget of $150K, and this year, thanks to the generous contributions from the Sequoia Union High School District ($74,970), we had a starting budget of $75K. This academic year, our goal was to raise $105,000 to cover this year's expenses and give us a head start for next year. We are proud to announce that thanks to the generous donations of additional parents and a very generous anonymous donor contribution, we exceeded our goal and will be able to hit the ground running next year. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

  • Goal: $105, 000
  • Current BTI Donations through CAF (Thanks parents!!): $36,912
  • Oracle: $20,000
  • Roche: $5,000
  • Check Point Software: $2,000
  • Carl Perkins State Grant through Sequoia Union High School District: $30,718
  • Anonymous Donor: $25,000

Join the parent-teacher development committee

We are looking to expand our Parent Development Committee and would love your ideas and energy! We will need a sophomore class rep for next year's incoming sophomores. If you would like to be next year's sophomore rep, we would love to have you join our group! Parents from all classes are encouraged to join. If you can donate time and would like to help with some events or join the parent development committee, email fvelschow@seq.org.

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!

Upcoming schedule of events

  • May 29 - Spring Study Night for Finals
  • May 30 - BTI Mentor Thank-You Event - 7:00 p.m. [Hosted by Kevin and Leslie Marks]
  • June 5 - BTI's 2019 Senior Graduation - 6:30 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center at Carlmont

our time together

It is hard to believe that the 2018-2019 year has come to an end and our second BTI class will be graduating in a few days. I love creating our newsletter and hope that it has provided you with a window into what makes this program so special. BTI students are truly inspiring, BTI teachers are dedicated and engaged with our teens, our administration goes above and beyond to support this program, Faith and all the professionals contribute real life skills and exposure to various career paths, and us, parents, well we perhaps get the close-up view of how our teens are blossoming. This has been an amazing year building a stronger BTI parent community! On behalf of the BTI development committee members, a big thank you goes out to all of you for your support and we look forward to another great year next fall. Have a wonder summer! *** Cheryl - The Editor

Contact Information

  • Susan Gold - Co-Director of BTI: sgold@seq.org
  • Jaime Abdilla - Co-Director of BTI: jabdilla@seq.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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