In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity. —Sun Tsu Carlmont's Biotechnology Institute: A Parent & Community Newsletter

a note from the editor & From our bti directors

Volume 3 Issue 1

As the editor of our Parent and Community BTI Newsletter and a mom of a BTI senior (my second teen to be graduating from the BTI program), a few thoughts come to mind during this unusual time. First, thank goodness my kids are in college and high school during this remote educational moment! Whew! Second, thank goodness for our administrators and educators who have had to pivot without warning and have shown amazing dedication and fortitude to continue to deliver a quality educational curriculum at Carlmont. And finally, thank goodness for our BTI teachers and program, as it is now more consequential than ever that our remote students feel a sense of community and connectedness that BTI provides. BTI students know each other. BTI students know the educators and administrators who make up the BTI program, and most important, our BTI teachers know our teens too. Think about this...when Carlmont students can only show up via Zoom, our BTI teachers KNOW our teens and BTI's small learning community continues to deliver a sense of connectedness during this fragmented time. How cool is that?

As to the new BTI sophomore parents, I would like to personally welcome you to our BTI parent community. Welcome! It is unfortunate that it is starting out remotely, as it may take a bit of time and effort to build a sense of community given that our parent events that provide an opportunity for us to mix and mingle are postponed. In the meantime, if you would like to know more about BTI, I encourage you to check out Carlmont's BTI website and read a few of last year's BTI newsletters. They are chalk full of information. We would also like you to consider becoming involved in our BTI program. It is a fantastic way of connecting and contributing to this amazing program. [Details in newsletter.] Now I would like to turn it over to Ms. Gold and Ms. Abdilla, the BTI directors, to say a few words about how BTI is coping, adjusting, and thriving during this pandemic.

While Distance Learning 101 was not a part of our teacher education programs, the BTI staff have adapted, modified, and innovated to address the challenges of distance learning. We are so very lucky to have three cohorts of AMAZING students who have been eager participants in their Zoom classes.

BTI continually strives to build a community, which extends beyond the classroom, and we have kept this tradition going in the virtual world with trivia nights and Scattergories games. Please encourage students to join us for the upcoming Halloween costume and movie night on the 22nd of October from 7:00 – 8:30 PM.

We look forward to the day when we can return to campus. In the meantime, the BTI program remains vital and vibrant.

Honoring our bti graduates - class of 2020

One of the many disappointments of this pandemic was the cancellation of our BTI graduation where traditionally, BTI seniors gather in the Performing Arts Center for one last event that honors their amazing three-year experience. Speeches are given, a Class of 2020 video is shown, and smiles and giggles are expressed as we celebrate their accomplishments. Another missed opportunity was the Biomanufacturing Showcase, where the parents are able to see the incredible products that BTI seniors developed and produced from scratch. It is truly amazing what they accomplish each year. Despite the disappointments, the Class of 2020 ended the year as a family and gathered on Zoom to watch a video of their three-year experience in BTI. We are proud of their resilience and excited to see the difference they make in the world. Here is a list of colleges they are attending:

Go forth and change the world Class of 2020!

where there's a will, there's a way - Bti students at work!

BTI's New GreenHouse

Would you look at that! For his Eagle Scout project, BTI senior (KK) raised funds and donated many hours to build this greenhouse for BTI. Thank you, KK! The plants that grow there will be used in the Biotechnology 3-4 classes, and the greenhouse will make a difference for years to come.

When KK is not building Green houses, This summer, he took an online nanodegree program on Udacity called Data Science with Python, but it also covered git, SQL, GitHub, and shell.

bti junior is making a difference

Hi, My name is [CL], and I am currently a junior in the BTI program. While being stuck at home these past few months, my friend [AH] and I have been searching for ways to help young people around the globe get through this very difficult time. So, we have partnered with a local volunteer organization called Dream Volunteers to create and ship out care packages to young women living in Vuelta Grande, Guatemala so they can attend school. We are both very passionate about service work and we wanted to do something that could truly benefit those in need beyond our communities. We hope you can look at our Go Fund Me page and spread the word about our project. Thank you so much for your help and support.

STEM Internship

This summer, JM earned a position at Stanford’s Science, Technology, and Regenerative Surgery (ST@RS) Internship Program. He worked with diverse STEM professionals and interns from around the world to research Osteonecrosis of the Jaw (ONJ). This semester, he has continued to work with his ST@RS team who is using 3D analysis software to compare the facial deformities of genetically modified mice in order to gain an understanding of human diseases.

summer internship

RR was an intern this summer at NASA! She stated that she was lucky enough to have a mentor during that time. RR worked on the Urban Air Mobility National Campaign in the Human Factors section. Sounds amazing!

Other summer projects

CV took a biology course at the College of San Mateo!

SA said, "We grew plants! We also killed a succulent cause we watered it too much... but we grew plants!!!" Way to go SA!

AS said she wanted to learn more about skincare this summer, so she did a project testing the efficacy of moisturizers. She had some Jello at home and used that as a substitution for human skin. Then, she tested different moisturizers she had to see which one melted down the gelatin and which ones didn't.

BTI graduate running for office

As a young adult in San Carlos and Carlmont BTI alumni, Carlmont was influential in JT Eden's education. His time there, in addition to Cañada College, has fostered in him the skills to dive deep into real-world problems and come up with solutions. JT is analytical, open-minded, and persevering, as was promoted in his experience in the BTI program, so it's no surprise to now see him running for City Council in his hometown. How is that for leadership, civic duty and vision?

BTI juniors & Mentors

job shadowing - 2020

One of the differentiators of being a part of the Biotech Institute at Carlmont is the career development that is a critical part of the BTI curriculum. Each class has a targeted professional program designed to expose our teens to career options, career skills and professional networking, even leading to internship opportunities. These programs include a professional symposium for the sophomores, and a year-long, one-on-one mentorship program for the juniors. Each junior is matched with a mentor who shares a common interest and whose career they want to explore. All BTI students get to tour biotech companies, learn about the research taking place there, and meet professionals who talk about their careers in the biotech world. BTI students also develop skills in creating a professional resume and business communication. Obviously, some of these opportunities were cut short last spring due to Covid and are either being modified or are on hold this year, but many of our BTI juniors had a chance to do a job shadow at their mentor's workplace last February. Just look at the cool pictures from some of these events!

Hey BTI Community! Please consider volunteering to become a mentor or a part of the professional symposium so you too can be a part of our teens' professional growth. Details are at the end of this newsletter.

Distant learning at its finest!

Partners: BTI & skyline college

Carlmont’s BTI program has enjoyed a strong relationship with Skyline College. Not only do our BTI students earn 9 college credits from Skyline for completing the biotechnology sequence, but Dr. Nick Kapp, a Skyline faculty professor, co-teaches the Biomanufacturing class with Ms. Burndon. This class is offered exclusively to BTI seniors.

Skyline College demonstrated their support of the partnership with Carlmont High School when they purchased ALL of the supplies for the first semester of labs, including pocket balances for each biotechnology student (that is close to 400 students). This has made it possible for BTI to offer rigorous lab experiences at home.

Nine BTI students generously gave up a few days of their summer vacation to volunteer at Skyline College where they made over 900 take-home lab kits for students in three local school districts. The staff at Skyline College were impressed with the BTI student’s professionalism and efficiency.

Thank you Dr. Kapp and Skyline College for your ongoing support!

biotech 1-2 - ms. burdon

Can you say "Cheese"? Yep, that is what Biotech 1-2 students are making thanks to the science kits from Skyline College! BTI Biotech 1-2 students will be learning about the impact of Biotechnology on society through the stock project and other online career and current event explorations. They will be doing labs to develop the core skills of Biotechnology, including measurement, solution preparation, microbial culturing, and work with DNA and proteins.

Modern European history - Ms. Moynihan

Sophomores are covering one topic a week, currently in a unit focusing on Europe before modern times. They’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. Students are doing zoom breakout room discussions of the content on synchronous days and interactive screen-casted lectures on asynchronous days. Unit tests will be projects that connect our content to science and innovation during the time period under discussion and connections to present day. Now that sounds like a great cross-curricular approach to European History for BTI students!

English II - Ms. Gold

Ms. Gold says, "Our first unit focused on an introduction to ethics and culminated with an argument writing assignment. Students advocated for the needs of a particular subgroup affected by the pandemic. Currently, we are reading Rebecca Skloot’s non-fiction book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks which will give us an opportunity to explore a number of ethical issues related to healthcare as well as an understanding of how institutional racism has historically affected the healthcare of black Americans. Discussions are central to an English class, and we have been able to continue having whole-class and breakout-room discussions over Zoom." How relevant are these topics for our BTI students!

bti sophomore distant learners

Biotech 3-4 - Ms. Abdilla

In Biotechnology 3-4, junior BTI students will continue to do labs, thanks to the generous support of Skyline College. Ms. Abdilla will provide support for labs via Zoom, and she highly encourages students to complete their labs during scheduled class time so she can answer any questions that may arise quickly and efficiently. Semester one will focus mainly on plants - germinating seeds, growing plants from seeds, and cloning plants using 3 different techniques. Let's take a look at their first at home lab, Seed Germination. Awesome job!

Chemistry for Biotech - Mr. engberg

The main focus for BTI Juniors during the first semester will be project-based learning centered around the creation and analysis of a student-created beverage. Most of the at-home “lab” work will be “kitchen chemistry” involved in creating a beverage of the student’s choice. During this project, students will focus on the chemistry concepts of solutions, concentration, measurement, bonding, structure, and other basic chemistry concepts. Distance learning concepts will be streamlined and focus on key skills that prior students have found most useful in biotech courses and college chemistry.

us history - ms. moynihan

BTI juniors will cover one topic a week, starting with a unit about the Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century and its impact on society and quality of life. They are doing zoom breakout room discussions of the content on synchronous days, interactive screen-casted lectures on asynchronous days. Unit tests will be projects that connect our content to science and innovation during the time period under discussion and connections to present-day with continued scrutiny over how innovative technologies have impacted democratic processes and society and driven the path the US has taken during the 20th century through the present. I think we can all agree that science, science solutions and technological innovation can have a dramatic affect on how history will look back on these times!

english iii - ms. gold

Ms. Gold's class began the semester writing narrative essays and are in the middle Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which examines the motivations and ethical challenges of a scientist. They are also exploring the book through a psychological lens—looking at the light and shadow sides of the mad scientist and monster archetypes. After our Frankenstein unit, they will delve into a bioethical issue and argument writing. Discussions are central to an English class, and they have been able to continue having whole-class and breakout-room discussions over Zoom. Awwwe...technology!

biomanufacturing - ms. burndon & dr. kapp

BTI seniors began the year by manufacturing educational lab kits that will be used by the other biotech classes. Many of us had a living room filled with product! They will then learn about the computer side of Biotech with a unit on Bioinformatics and DNA sequencing related to Jurassic Park, and will end the semester with the student’s favorite Urease Medical Device Project, where students use low-tech materials and their Biotech skills to design an alternative to Dialysis. It is super cool what these students develop. Stay tuned!

American government - Ms. Manuel

This semester we are doing project based learning 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 government plays in protecting them and sometimes infringing on them. Through distance learning we are grounding the topic exploration around current events, which provides real time/real life examples.

English IV - Mr. Fabic

First off, we want to welcome Mr. Fabic to the BTI community. We are excited that you joined the BTI team and look forward to getting to know you. The BTI team knew that when Ms. Pierce retired, he would be the perfect teacher to continue developing the senior curriculum. He describes himself as a science geek and has proven to build strong a rapport with students. As to this semester, units/texts will be covered over multiple weeks, starting with an introduction to the class and distance learning process, followed by the “What’s Next” college essay unit in weeks 3-5, Fahrenheit 451 in weeks 6-11, Jurassic Park in weeks 12-16, and ending with prep and finals for the last two weeks. 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 to their lives and society as a whole. While the medium of instruction and learning has changed, the goals of preparing students for success beyond high school by becoming emergent critical thinkers, capable writers, and ardent readers remain the same.

so what are bti students saying about distant learning?

How has being in BTI helped you navigate the challenges of distance learning?

Class of 2021

  • BTI has helped me feel more at ease with distance learning by giving me a community to feel familiar and comfortable with, even through a screen. - AB
  • BTI has helped me navigate the challenges of distancing learning by providing a close-knit community to communicate and talk with. The students in my BTI classes are more comfortable participating in class activities. Surprisingly, distance learning has not hindered our communication with each other in anyway; we are still relatively close with each and everyone of us. - AC
  • My teachers have been very creative and have a full hands on lessons plan even though we aren’t at school. - HH
  • BTI has the inherent advantage of being a very close community, where if I have any trouble understanding what an assignment exactly is, or trying to remember when something is due, I can very easily reach out to anyone in the community, and know that I'll get a helpful response most likely within the hour. - EC
  • The community is closer and so if I need help I know who I can go to. Although we switched teachers this year I still feel comfortable asking for help as we are all in one community and we all know each other more or less. - EZR
  • Classes are smaller and I'm with people I already know so it's not as awkward and I always have someone I know I can reach out to. - AW

Class of 2022

  • BTI has given us materials that we need to complete tasks and it has been really helpful to keep the same teachers because I believe that everyone feels more comfortable reaching out for help or anything of that sort. - AIB
  • Since we are a much closer community than in other classes, it makes distance learning more comfortable. Also, being more familiar with the teachers makes it easier to ask questions. - MK
  • BTI has helped me navigate the challenges of distance learning because all the teachers have been helpful and very understanding about the situation we are in and are very helpful towards their students. - JL

Class of 2023

  • First of all, the teachers have all been so supportive and understanding this entire year. That has definitely helped a ton. Second, I really liked the efficiency and ease of the take-home lab kits, I feel those were dispensed very well. Third, BTI provided me with an extra chrome book, which has been very useful when I didn’t have access to another computer I could use. - NB
  • Being in BTI helped me navigate the challenges of distanced learning with providing a Chromebook so that I can move around my house to do school work easier. - PR
  • It gave me a sense of community and made it feel like I'm not so alone at home. - AS
  • BTI has helped me through the hardships of distance learning as I've still been able to participate in hands-on work in some of my classes. As an example, I did the cheese lab in my Biotechnology 1-2 class. - EP

How do you feel you have benefited from having the ability to do labs at home this semester?

Class of 2021

  • I have benefited from doing labs by the labs keeping me engaged with classes and helping me keep interest in my work. - MD
  • It is nice because it allows me to move around more during the work day and get to do something besides stare at a screen. - JM

Class of 2022

  • I benefited from doing labs at home this semester because I am doing them on my own and I feel more capable. - CB
  • I feel I've benefited from having the ability to do labs at home because I have been presented with such a great opportunity to work on labs even with distance learning. On top of this, I felt more independent during the lab, but still had guidance that helped steer me in the right direction. - LF
  • I feel like I am less rushed sometimes in class we didn't always have enough time to complete labs and it stressed me out a little. - AN
  • I still get to experience the fun of a lab from the comfort of my home. - NY

Class of 2023

  • I've benefited from being able to do these labs because I enjoy learning hands-on in many situations and I feel really lucky to be able to still have hands-on labs for science rather than only learning through textbooks and lectures. - EP
  • I really enjoyed having the ability to do labs at home this semester because I feel like they have taught me hands-on skills as well as how to perform experiments and analyze their results. They gave me a unique and memorable experience that wouldn't have been the same had we not been able to do physical labs. - AF

What is one positive outcome that you can take away from the distance learning experience?

Class of 2021

  • I have had a lot of time to think about ways science can be used to make the world better, as there is always something new going on that we talk about in the BTI classes, and there are many opportunities to learn more about science online because of the pandemic. The key takes away is that the students of BTI are still connected, and it is always nice to go into one of the BTI classes and then seeing so many familiar faces. - TG
  • Not necessarily distance learning specially (more just the COVID situation in gerber always) but we really got to see exactly how essential biotech can be in a very real way. - SRO
  • I feel that distance learning has prepared me more for college as it is more self guided than a typical high school classroom. I've worked on important skills like time management and punctuality. - AS

Class of 2023

  • One positive conclusion I can make from my distance learning experience is that I can recognize how much the teachers at Carlmont care about their students. Distance learning has a lot more challenges than normal schooling does because it's so new to us, but all the teachers and most of the students appear to truly be trying their hardest and putting in a solid effort at school.

building BTI community

BTI club & social events

bti club - launched with a bang!

The student-driven BTI Club hosted their first meeting on September 11. Senior, GK organized a talk by Shirley Wu, a long time professional in the biotechnology industry. Students learned about how she entered the field from her undergraduate studies at Brown University and her road to becoming the Director of Health Product Science at 23 and Me.

Senior, JM organized a discussion with Stanford Plastic and Reconstructive Professor and Surgeon, Dr. Jill Helms. Dr. Helms spoke to the BTI Club from her laboratory at Stanford where she works on stem cell research. She explained that stem cells hold answers to some of the pressing questions about the potential for tissue healing and regeneration in our bodies. She also shared her educational journey from high school student to Stanford professor and the exciting research she has done along the way.

BTI club meetings are advertised both on Remind and by email.

bti social events via zoom

BTI social events have become quite the tradition in recent years. Pre-pandemic, they were held monthly at lunchtime and included popsicle treats during heat waves, slime-making at Halloween, pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving, and cocoa and cookies before the holidays. The BTI faculty now organize Zoom game nights, which take place every 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month. This has been a fun way for BTI students and staff to connect outside of school!

from trivia to scattergories....

Parents - now that you may have a bit more work flexibility - we can use your help!


Calling for Volunteers

A Message from Faith Velschow - Director of Mentoring and Career Services

The BTI Program has been so successful over the past 5 years because of its unique combination of dedicated teachers, committed students, engaged parents, and a supportive biotech community. So thank you! Now, we are asking for your help:

Be a professional mentor to our bti juniors

It's a vital part of the BTI junior experience

Want to make a difference in a BTI student's life? We are currently recruiting a mentor for each of the BTI juniors. A mentor shares their career journeys with their mentee and helps them explore their own career interests. Become a mentor or share this link with your networks to help us recruit professionals. It is a light commitment, approximately 2-3 hours per month, with all interactions done remotely, either by Zoom, email, phone, or text messages. The program takes place from January to June 2021. We never know where our next amazing mentor may come from. A few years ago a rising BTI senior went to a neighborhood lemonade stand and started speaking with a dad who was supervising his children. Turned out he was a marketing director at a biotechnology company and has been a wonderful mentor to our students. So, please help us get the word out. Post this link on FB, Instagram, or LinkedIn, or on your internal volunteer boards or email lists at work. While many of our volunteers are in the biotechnology industry, business unit jobs such as marketing, accounting and HR are relevant across industries, and we have many students interested in those areas as well.

First introductory meeting is planned for January 27th, 10:05-11:10 am. In addition, we will invite mentors to share their career experiences with the whole junior class through our Zoom Career Round Tables, which will be held on November 19 & 20, 10-11 am.

Have questions? Ready to sign up? Send an email to Faith Velschow (Director of Mentoring and Career Services) fvelschow@seq.org and she will reach out to you for the next steps. The signup deadline is Nov 1st.

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 Sophomore & Junior Class Parent Reps. Reps serve as the point of contact for communication that the development committee sends out. Other skills that are helpful include fundraising experience, newsletter, or MailChimp experience, & 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? Please join us at our first Parent/Teacher Development Committee Meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 4th at 3:30 pm. via Zoom. Send an email to Faith Velschow, Director of Mentoring and Career Services, fvelschow@seq.org and she will send you a link! Looking forward to seeing you there!

Financial support- Setting our goal for 2020-2021

your donations to caf keep the bti program funded

A fully funded BTI program requires $150,000 per year. Fortunately, Sequoia School District provides at least half that amount every year. The rest is raised by corporate donation and grants and contributions by BTI parents through CAF. Because of last year's successful fund-raising efforts, even with the disruption of covid, this year we are able to fund our desired 2 sections of dedicated BTI Biotech 3-4 which means non-BTI students attend their own sections of Biotech 3-4, allowing BTI juniors to focused on their BTI curriculum in a small class setting.

This year, BTI budgetary needs are reduced due to distance learning. However, it is critical that we raise $25,000 from parents so that next year BTI can continue to offer BTI only sections of Biotech 3-4, as BTI classes are smaller than regular classes and have a specialized curriculum due to their training and expertise.

REach our goal through donating to caf

Did you know that by giving to CAF, you can allocate a portion of your donation to BTI? We are so lucky to be partnered with CAF to raise the additional funds needed to cover unique expenses associated with a program like BTI. Please consider donating to CAF to help support Carlmont and this amazing academic and professional program that delivers uniquely qualified students to colleges at the end of their 3 year program, as well as providing a strong learning community for our teens with content and experiences that they find relevant and challenging.


We would also like to thank BTI parent, Will Sharron who wrote a letter to his company, Checkpoint, during his first year as a BTI parent, explaining why they should make a contribution to BTI. He attached a link to a BTI newsletter so they could see the students in action. We are so grateful to Will for his effort. Checkpoint donated $2,000 to BTI and has continued to donate to the BTI program. Thank you, Will, and thank you Checkpoint! Hey...Great idea, parents!

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!