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From left: Andrew Berry, Ben Gulak, Samantha Futerman, Catlin Powers and Kundayi Musinami. From left: Andrew Berry, Ben Gulak, Samantha Futerman, Catlin Powers and Kundayi Musinami.
THE COLLEGE ISSUE

Five to Watch

An actress, an inventor, a star on and off the football field, an international do-gooder, and a musical entrepreneur.

By JANICE O'LEARY
October 5, 2008
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IT IS THE ENGINE THAT DRIVES NEW ENGLAND'S ECONOMY: 259 COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES, 886,997 STUDENTS, A FINANCIAL IMPACT OF $99 A GLIMPSE INSIDE TODAY'S WORLD OF HIGHER EDUCATION.

Playing for Keeps

ANDREW BERRY HAS BRAINS, BRAWN, AND MORE. BERRY, 21, IS IN HIS fourth season as a starting cornerback on the Harvard Crimson defense - and holds a 3.8 grade point average. In June, he'll receive both his bachelor's degree in economics and a master's degree in computer science. He's twice been named a preseason All-American and twice been chosen as a First Team All-Ivy selection.

He's managed it by sacrificing sleep and setting priorities. "I'm definitely not the smartest kid here," Berry says, "but starting things early and knowing my priorities has helped." And football has taught him lessons of discipline, work ethic, and dealing with adversity.

He's fast - he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds - but Berry says he's not the best athlete on the field. "My strength is intelligence and playing fast with my eyes, being able to anticipate the opponent's next play."

The Maryland native reads the Bible every night and participates in a math and science enrichment program for children at a local church on Saturday mornings in the off -season. He also spent two summers working with low-income kids in an urban academic program. This summer, he interned at Goldman Sachs in New York, just in case he decides to pursue investment banking - that is, if he doesn't try to go pro.

He's Electric

MIT FRESHMAN BEN GULAK GOT A PHONE CALL IN MAY, right after he turned 19. Jay Leno wanted to know if Gulak would come on The Tonight Show to show the world his invention, the Uno, a compact electric motorcycle whose wheels are aligned side by side instead of front to back.

Gulak brainstormed the idea when traveling with his father in China three years ago. "The pollution was horrible," he says. "But there were all these different kinds of small vehicles - bikes and mopeds. I instantly thought of a green alternative: Why not an electric motorcycle?"

The Toronto native began sketching as soon as he got home and started the project for Canada's national science competition, where he took second place. After that, Motorcycle Mojo magazine wrote about the Uno, singer Kanye West blogged about Gulak, and he received an invitation to the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles this past summer.

Gulak deferred MIT for a year to work full time on the Uno, and now he's hiring a CEO and securing investors, some of whom contacted him through Facebook. He says he's raised about half of his $4 million goal.

He's not riding the slick bike to class yet (too ostentatious, he says), and he's still working out kinks. With funding, he plans to improve the battery and increase the speed. Right now, the Uno takes 20 minutes to charge for 15 minutes of run time, and its top speed is 15 miles per hour. "The numbers don't mean anything yet," he says. The Uno's biggest obstacle? The trust barrier. "There's no wheel to see between the handlebars," he says, "but you get used to it." He hopes to see Leno take a spin on it this fall.

Hollywood-Bound

BEFORE SHE EVEN ARRIVED AT BOSTON UNIVERSITY, SAMANTHA FUTERMAN was already a veteran actor, having starred in the indie flick The Motel when she was just 15. Now a senior, Futerman, a Korean-American who grew up in New Jersey, has a resume full of parts in plays and movies, including 2005's Memoirs of a Geisha. Her latest film, Harold, a comedy about a balding teen, came out over the summer.

"I love feeling the emotions of another person's story," she says. "And then I get to share that story with other people and maybe even inspire them. That's beautiful. And fun."

Futerman took off a semester last year to act in a play that nearly made it to Broadway, and she's ready to move to New York with hopes that her agent will keep her busy. Her big goal: to make the Shel Silverstein children's classic The Giving Tree into a theater piece. The 20-year-old is now rehearsing for her first Shakespeare role, Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

A theater-arts major with a minor in anthropology, Futerman says: "I love learning about the differences between cultures and how those differences might bring us all together. Theater and film can do the same thing. There's something raw about human emotion that unites us."

Of Thee I Sing

WHEN KUNDAYI MUSINAMI DISEMBARKED AT LOGAN AIRPORT IN 2003 after leaving his home in Zimbabwe, he had $12 in his pocket. He'd been accepted at Berklee College of Music after a 21/2-year application process, a year of which was spent raising the $75 application fee. But how he would pay the tuition was still unanswered.

Musinami waded through red tape for weeks, getting shuffled between administrative officers until he finally got financial assistance. Since then, Musinami has also worked to earn the $15,000 he needs for rent, academic fees, and expenses each year. And he's edged closer to achieving his musical goals. "We have so much great African music," he says, "but we don't have the industry or technology there to preserve it or transcribe it. We could claim the authenticity of rhythms that have gone on to other parts of the world if we did." He wants to reunite jazz, hip-hop, and R&B with their African origins, so he's become fluent in music production.

He and two friends have started a production company; they plan to offer personalized music to customers who want an original song for, say, a 30th birthday or 10th wedding anniversary. "We love certain songs because a piece of them speaks to a piece of us at a particular time," says Musinami. "But with this, the whole song would be tailored to each person."

Cooking up Relief

FRIENDS JOKE THAT CATLIN POWERS'S NOSE IS CROOKED BECAUSE she's had it too close to books for so many years. But the 22-year-old Wellesley senior (who hurt her nose practicing tae kwon do) is more likely to be working with strips of Mylar and yak fur than reading novels these days. Powers, an environmental-studies and chemistry major, was attracted to Tibetan culture and on a visit to the region last year saw a need: Most villagers used as cooking fuel either wood, which is difficult to gather, or dung, which has sanitary issues. And both were burned inside poorly ventilated homes.

Solar cookers seemed an obvious solution, but while Powers saw many on her visit, they had serious drawbacks. Made of concrete, they were too heavy for one person to move, and they cooked food unevenly. Powers and a friend at MIT conceived a project they called SolSource Tibet to help villagers change how they cook, and at the same time improve indoor air quality and reduce carbon emissions.

Powers began work on designing an improved solar cooker: Mylar strips that capture the sunlight are sewn to canvas woven from yak hair, a traditional Tibetan material, and the cooker folds up like a tent for portability. "I feel as though the power of innovation was removed from the people," Powers says. "This solar cooker, however, is built using local knowledge and materials, which enables users to build, repair, and alter it according to their needs." In January, Powers will deliver her models to several villages in Tibet for testing. And in the meantime, she is applying for grant money to improve the cookers' design and eventually distribute them among villagers.

Janice O'Leary is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.

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