Seniors in action Carlmont's Biotechnology Institute: A Parent & Community Newsletter

bti's mission

  • To immerse students in a science-centric curriculum, which explores science’s connection to the humanities and influence in the world.
  • To create critical thinking, science-minded individuals who are prepared to succeed in college and have the fundamental knowledge and skills necessary to give them an edge in the biotechnology industry.

a note from a BTI senior & future Oregon State University student - P.R.

volume 2 issue 4

To be able to walk into a professional biotechnology company, point to any instrument in the lab, and say, “I know what that is and how to operate it,” is an experience that not many college students have, let alone a high schooler. In BTI, students can work with instruments professionals in the field use in their daily lives, and they learn to perform various labs that are vital in biotechnology. I know this because I was able to apply my knowledge over the summer during my six-week internship. My intern mentor was in awe at all of the experiences I was exposed to in my BTI classes, and he expressed that he was not taught some of the information until he was in grad school. Additionally, in a mere two years of being in BTI, I was able to outperform all prior college interns from that company and even was on par with the new hire that he was training at the same time.

While some parents may hesitate to have their student join this program because it takes them off the AP track (I know my mom was), I found that the practical, real-life experiences I gained from the BTI program are just as valuable as anything I gleaned from the AP classes I have taken. Not only are the classes more hands-on, but the class sizes are smaller, which allows for more teacher-student interaction. Also, there is less homework compared to other classes and the classes are subject-focused, meaning that instead of learning out of an outdated textbook, students are learning about real-world stories that affect everyday life exponentially. Equally important, BTI is a very close-knit community that allows students to get to know their classmates as well as their teachers very quickly and on a deeper level since they are with each other for three years. Ultimately, I am so happy that I decided to join the BTI family and look forward to further developing my knowledge in the biotech engineering field next year as a freshman in college.

seniors at the top of their game

Ms. Burndon & Dr. Kapp - biomanufacturing - a dual-credit class with skyline college

BTI seniors, who have developed college-level science and lab skills, are now doing college-level science in their Biomanufacturing class, co-taught with Ms. Burndon and Dr. Kapp from Skyline College. Their first science project was to perform DNA barcoding on sushi fish. DNA barcoding is a method of species identification using a short section of DNA from a specific gene or genes to classify an organism at the species level. Our BTI seniors put on their detective hats to confirm if that expensive high-grade piece of sushi was as the menu stated or in fact, a cheaper piece of sushi. What would Sherlock Holmes be doing if he were alive today?

Seniors then put on their lab coats and made bio-active pills and lotions as practice biomanufacturing products. They extracted zinc from beets and made supplement pills, learning through the process and a little bit of math that not every good idea leads to a good product! You’d have to take hundreds of their zinc pills a day to get your RDA. They also extracted the enzyme bromelain, a protease that can help break down dead skin, from pineapple and mixed it into a lotion base that they created. They used lab tests to determine that the lotion was effective and the enzyme remained active, and then sealed it into single-use compostable packets.

As if that is not impressive enough, the next science project will really knock your socks off. BTI seniors formed small groups to design a medical device to improve dialysis outcomes. Urease is the enzyme that breaks down urea in the kidneys. BTI seniors first extracted urease from soybeans by crushing and blending the material to extract urease. Next, they made alginate beads containing urease and tested them by exposing the alginate beads to urea. They then tested for the presence of ammonia, a byproduct that is produced when urea is broken down. Once they confirmed that their alginate beads were viable, they designed a portable dialysis device using the alginate beads! Wow, what a fantastic accomplishment.

This semester, BTI seniors will design their own capstone biomanufacturing final projects by coming up with a biotech product idea, designing the procedure, and developing and testing the product. They will also create all the packaging and marketing materials. Make sure you mark your calendars for Tuesday, May 19 from 5:30-7 pm in U20 where you are invited to come and admire their accomplishments. The last edition in May will also highlight their projects. It is super impressive!

English 4 - Ms. Pierce

Seniors started the year with a main focus on honing their writing skills and applying those to their college essays/personal statements. We appreciate all the time and assistance that Ms. Pierce provided our students to finish these in a timely manner, one of the biggest stress points of college applications. Thank you Ms. Pierce! Next, BTI seniors are using literature and non-fiction to examine science issues, such as ethics and biases, to develop critical thinking and writing skills.

This semester, students will read Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. A book review states, "In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes’s worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn’t work. It is a riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley. Sounds super interesting!

American Government - Ms. Manuel

Most of us parents remember high school American Government and Economics. Our seniors are no different. During this second semester, seniors are learning all about American government and what role they can play in our system. As soon to be voters, seniors learn how our voting system works and come to understand the importance of each of our votes. To that end, they will be creating board games that demonstrate the complicated presidential electoral system. Perfect timing!

BTI seniors will also hold a mock trial for a notorious biotech CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, based on the book they are reading in English, Bad Blood.

What our seniors are saying

Now that you are about to graduate, what would you say to a student who is considering joining BTI?

  • Join! BTI was an amazing experience that has truly made me grow as an individual. - AM
  • It’s hands-down one of the best decisions I’ve made. As long as you’re interested in science, this is a fantastic option for you. Being in a smaller community allows you to become open with your peers and allows you to make amazing friends who share the same interests. The teachers are fantastic and always willing to help. -SL
  • If you are interested in science and want your high school experience to reflect that, then BTI is the place for you. The close knit community allows you to thrive and find help whenever you need it. - JL
  • I would say to just do it. It's a great opportunity and definitely will set you on the right path for what you want to do. You also become a family with the people in your grade and you make lots of friends. It's a really fun experience. - SH

Please share with us one positive experience from your time with BTI.

  • Knowing I have a group of peers and teachers that will have my back when the times get hard. TJR
  • I got a mentor who was incredible, and who I am still in contact (with we get brunch from time to time) and she has given me a window to look into biotech from a non lab perspective. It was one of the most valuable things BTI has given me. - AM
  • The family aspect of BTI is so strong. I don’t feel shy to raise my hand in class at all, or to share my opinion. I also met my closest friends in BTI, of which I plan to continue to talk to throughout college. - SL
  • I have really enjoyed the English class specifically because we have had so many interesting scientific discussions about topics that actually interest us. I’ve also really enjoyed the science classes because of the lab experience. Other kids my age wouldn’t have any knowledge of how to use lab equipment. - KME
  • Mentor meetings- Both meeting my mentor outside of school at at the symposiums was fun and informative. My mentor gave me a lot of tips about the future(college, jobs etc.). - EJ

In what ways have you grown from being in BTI?

Becoming stronger and more confident and learning how to better conduct myself as a student, person, and an employee. - TJR

I have a super fantastic support system because of BTI which has helped me grow in many areas of my life socially, academy, and emotionally. It has been a super transformative experience for me. - AM

In BTI I have really been able to focus on what I’m passionate about. The opportunities in BTI have helped me to learn so much more than I thought I would’ve in this program. - DB

I’ve surprisingly learned a lot about ethics in BTI. Studying that unit in English junior year really made me start to think about the ethics of everything, and weighing out each side of the story before making a decision. I feel that I’ve grown from that because I am able to be more aware of people’s views that contradict my own. - SL

BTI has helped me see what I plan to do for the rest of my life. I have learned to love science and I can’t wait to contribute to the field. - AS

BTI taught me how to develop a sense of professionalism when interacting with others in the field of science, as well as with any guest speakers and fellow peers. - TP

I have gained a lot of knowledge about the workforce and the credentials in biotech. - CH

Helped me be more extroverted in my classes rather than being quiet and not participating. - CB

I have learned about current scientific topics I likely would not have learned in a regular class such as bioethics. Now that I am almost done with the BTI program, I am more confident about what I want to study when I go to university. -EJ

Other bti news

Cleaning Product Project - Juniors

The junior cross-curricular project where students create an environmentally-friendly cleaning product is always a favorite among BTI students. Students use many of the biotechnology skills they developed over the past two years when they make their cleaning solutions and test the efficacy by making agar plates to determine if the cleaner killed surface bacterial. They also often reference skills learned in chemistry when they accidentally make soap, or when their cleaning products start changing colors. Students also develop an ad campaign for their products. This includes a label for the bottle, a magazine ad, and a video commercial.

Ms. Gold does an excellent job teaching the students advertising strategies in their English class, and the classroom is turned into a market place on Open House night, with students “selling” their cleaners. The community is always impressed with all of the scientific data they have to support their claims. Taking the skills learned in the lab and classroom, and making a real-world product is just one way BTI tries to make the curriculum more relevant for the students.

BTI Juniors at work

Congrats to this BTI Sophomore

In January, a BTI sophomore (shown right) spoke at a meeting of the Sequoia Audubon. She was the recipient of a scholarship, which sent young local birders to attend the American Birding Association’s renowned Camp Colorado and spoke with peers about her experience there. Such interesting students!

BTI Social Events

Hot cocoa and Cookies

January 24, 2020

After a long holiday nap, BTI students kicked off the second semester with comfort food, hot cocoa, cookies and other such treats! BTI students from all levels came to meet up with their friends and partake in this social event. You could hear the chatter from afar!

Let's hear it for Ms. Burndon and Mr. Engberg!

Show BTI Some love - valentine's celebration

February 7, 2020

Yep...and let's show our BTI teachers who continue to organize and sponsor these monthly events some love too! It is not just the learning that takes place in this program, it's the bonding that takes place among the students and teachers. BTI transcends the classroom. BTI forms a family.

The Mastermind - Ms. Abdilla
Beautiful cupcakes with the help of her son....
Ms. Moynihan enjoys the festivities too!

Science Lecture Series

sponsored by roche diagnostics

Laurie Hill

9/4/19 - Never Tell Her the Odds

Laurie Hill, Vice-President of Intellectual Property, Genentech, blends her passion for science with a belief that nothing is impossible in her work in legal strategy and IP management at Genentech. From bench scientist to VP, Ms. Hill recalls, “As a kid, when other girls were playing with dolls, I was running science experiments. My parents never understood why I wasn’t more traditional, but I kept on studying science. In college, I fell in love with immunology—it’s still amazing to me that there’s a system that is responsive to everything else in your body. In the middle of an immunology class, my favorite aunt was diagnosed with cancer, and later died; I decided then that I wanted to do cancer research to honor her memory and make a difference, so I pursued a PhD in cancer immunology.”

Diego Rey

11/6/19 - Science and Entrepreneurship: Why it’s easier than ever to start a science-based company

Diego Rey, Founder and CSO at Endpoint Health, Inc. explains that until recently, starting a science-based company was difficult because it was too expensive and impractical for most founders. Science-based founders usually only came from elite institutions. Now, new technology, infrastructure, and business models have made it easier than ever to start a science-based company, and what’s most exciting is that anyone anywhere can be a science-based startup founder.

Darren Ji

2/12/20 - Science Medicine & Life

Dr. Darren Ji is Co-Founder and CEO of Elpiscience Biopharmceuticals, Inc., an innovative biotechnology company that helps harness the power of one’s own immune system to fight cancer. He also serves as a Venture Partner of Lilly Asia Ventures (LAV). Prior to that Darren was Global Vice President of Roche Partnering for Asia and Emerging Markets, as well as a leadership team member of Roche Partnering, Roche’s deal-making body that manages the company’s business development across the board including licensing and M&A. In this role, Darren was responsible for driving the strategy and execution of partnering activities in the territory of Asia and Emerging Markets encompassing over 100 countries.

Maria Millan

Coming soon - March 11- Regenerative Medicine: The Future is Here

Dr. Maria Millan, President and CEO of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). In her talk entitled “Regenerative Medicine: The Future is Here” she will highlight early progress in the field of regenerative medicine and will share the transformative advancements that have already started to improve the lives of patients. She will also highlight how CIRM has built an ecosystem of multi-stakeholder partnerships, critical infrastructure support, patient engagement and educational programs for the workforce of tomorrow—all in the service of the public and patients as we usher in this new era of medicine.

Guest Lecture for BTI Seniors in Biomanufacturing - Bill Brazil

Bill Brazil came to speak with our BioManufacturing students about patents. Specifically, Bill explained how patents work and how to get one, and how they can be used by Pharma/Biotech companies. He also shared insight into the "Bad Blood" Holmes/Theranos patents and case, and answered questions on anything else students found interesting around patents. One BTI senior was so impressed that he is considering a educational focus around what he learned as he embarks on his college journey! You never know from where the next spark of inspiration will come!


Carlmont BTI does not provide biotechnology internship opportunities directly due to insurance liability. However, the San Mateo County Office of Education does have an internship program. Most applications are due March 27, 2020. More information about SMCOE organized internship opportunities can be found here. If you need a letter of recommendation, please let us know ASAP.

New BTI Video

The directors of BTI just finished a new BTI video. It is fantastic! Please give it a watch!

Upcoming events

Open house - March 12, 2020

We hope you will join our guidance counselor, Kim Miller for a special college information meeting before Open House on March 12 at 5:30 PM in the College and Career Center. After, we would also love to see you in the labs where the sophomores and juniors will be presenting cross-curricular projects:

  • U20: Sophomores will present their research projects on an application of biotechnology.
  • U21: Juniors will present their environmentally-friendly household products and ad campaigns.

Each student team will sign up to present during a half-hour time slot between 6:30 and 8:30 PM. Ms. Abdilla and Ms. Gold will be floating back and forth between U20 and U21 if you would like to say hello! Hope to see you at Open House!

Other BTI events

  • March 20 - Cabin Fever - Lunchtime Bonding in U21
  • April 7 - Career Tech Ed Day for Juniors at Skyline College
  • April 14 - Senior Bonding Day at iFly (lucky!)
  • April 17 - Outdoor Fun - Lunchtime Bonding - Location TBD
  • April 21 - CytomX Therapeutics for Juniors
  • April 29 - Parent Mix and Mingle
  • May 1 - Final BTI Mentor Event - 9-10 am
  • May 5 - Genentech for Sophomores
  • May 6 - Roche for Seniors
  • May 19 - Biomanufacturing Final Poster Event from 5:30-7 pm in U20.
  • June 3 - BTI's 2020 Senior Graduation Ceremony at the Performing Arts Center - 6:30 p.m.

Parents and community

$32,676 to meet our goal

As a reminder, in order to continue this specialized science-centric program, it requires additional funding of $200,000 per year to fund the small dedicated class sizes with specialized curriculum, equipment and supplies, programs and events with industry professionals, and enriching trips to science discovery centers/museums and biotech companies. By meeting this goal, next year BTI will be able to pay for two dedicated Biotech 3/4 classes (BTI students only) with new equipment such as Verniere Lab Quests, pH probes and colorimeters. We extend our deepest gratitude for your ongoing support of this magnificent program. Thank you.

Funds Raised to Date

  • Sequoia School District: $75,000
  • Carl Perkins Grant: $46,800
  • Parent Donations through CAF to date: $29,004
  • Corporate donations: Apple: $1,980, Checkpoint: $1,000, Nerdwallet: $500, Oracle: $7,500, Roche: $5,000, Salesforce Foundation: $540 = $16,520

the power of Corporate Matching

Do you work for Genentech, Roche, Apple, Nerdwallet, Checkpoint, Sales force? These are just some of the companies that participate in corporate matching. Please check with your company to see if they too participate in corporate matching. This means that when you contribute to BTI through CAF, those corporate dollars are also funneled to BTI in the same percentage!

Parents, community & CAf - Thank you!

We are lucky to be partnered with CAF to facilitate our ability to raise additional funds tied to the specific expenses associated with a unique program like BTI. It is only by building upon the strong foundation that CAF provides that we can offer this specialized college-prep program. Thank you CAF for your ongoing support! And thank you parents and community for your ongoing support of this program. It truly does take a village!

calling all parents

Become a member of the development committee

The BTI Development Committee, who meet once a month, supports the BTI Mission through networking, educating the community and fundraising. The positions of the committee include:

  • President
  • CAF liaison
  • Communications: MailChimp, Newsletter and Social Media
  • Grants/Sponsorships
  • Parent class reps: Sophomore, Junior & Senior
  • At-large

If your child has benefited from the BTI, please consider joining us. We would love to have you in whatever capacity suits you. It's a great group that provides additional support to the co-directors of BTI, Ms. Gold and Ms. Abdilla to help in their efforts to ensure the BTI program continues to thrive. If you are able to join please contact Ms. Gold at sgold@seq.org or Faith Velschow at fvelschow@seq.org, 650-591-7502.

Come see what you think, the next meeting is Monday, March 23rd, 5:30 - 7:00 pm.

Additional ways you can help


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
  • Kat Eden - Sophomore Parent Rep & Communications Rep: kateden01@gmail.com
  • Cheryl Shelmadine - Junior Parent Rep and newsletter editor: service@copyteclegal.com
  • Jennifer Douglis - Junior Parent Rep: jdouglis@smfc.k12.ca.us
  • Tanya Rianda - Senior Parent Rep: tanya.rianda@gmail.com
  • Gurpreet Padam - Senior Parent Rep: gurpreetpadam@gmail.com

Please feel free to contact any of us if you have any questions, ideas or concerns. You can also 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