Alumni spotlight: Devan Paulus Compart

2012, M.S. and 2014 Ph.D., Animal Sciences

Advisor: Alfredo DiCostanzo

Current organization/ employer: Lincoln Park Zoo

Favorite memory of campus:
Working with my best friends every day. When you are a part of a small graduate program, you take classes, work, and share an office with the same people every day. You develop a great bond as you struggle through school together. You celebrate each other’s victories, and help those who are struggling. Your fellow graduate students become your family. So undoubtedly, my best memories are of the relationships I built while on campus.

Why did you choose CFANS as a college?
When I interviewed for my research position, I ended up travelling all over Minnesota with Alfredo and his current graduate students. On day two of my interview, we were planning on stopping at an abattoir to collect some research data for an hour. However, due to a mix-up at the plant, we ended spending the whole day in a cooler collecting data. After that experience, I am sure Alfredo was thinking that there was no way I would choose to attend the U, but that experience ended up being the catalyst for my decision to join CFANS. Although the work was tedious and cold, it was also very hands on. I had the opportunity to learn and try new things all during my interview. I could only imagine how much I would learn if I actually attended CFANS. In the end, my experience did not disappoint. I had the opportunity to try just about anything and everything while in graduate school.

Why do you think the University of Minnesota is great?
It houses so much amazing research space throughout the whole state that allows researchers to find applicable solutions to real-life problems.

Career information/ professional achievements:
I am the nutritionist for the Lincoln Park Zoo, the oldest zoo in the country, in Chicago, IL. This involves researching and formulating diets for all of the zoo animals from crickets to gorillas. I also manage the Nutrition Center which houses animal food and supplies.

Prior to graduate school I had so many amazing career opportunities. I worked as an enologist at a winery in California. I studies opossums, beetles, and voles in research labs at the University of California, Davis. I spend years training horses, and have put in countless hours in the field studying wildlife.

What's your passion? What do you love about your work and your field?
My passion has been animal nutrition since I was a little kid. In fact, I have Polaroid pictures of me setting up feeding trials with my pet rat when I was in elementary school (her food of choice turned out to be oats). I have just always loved learning about how the body utilizes different nutrients and how different animals utilize their feed.

My job now is great because I work with exotic animals. So much is unknown about the nutrition of the animals I work with, so I am constantly learning. Plus, there are only a handful of zoo nutritionists in the world, so I know that my work each day is contributing to the knowledge and survival of some of the most endangered animals on the planet.

How did your education at the U of M help prepare you for what you are doing today?
I was very lucky to have an advisor that helped his graduate students shine. He allowed me to actively participate in the UMN Extension programs, take on outside internships, and work with some of the top animal scientists in the world. Those experiences expanded my knowledge, improved my leadership skills, and advanced my communication skills. I am forever grateful to have those opportunities because they prepared me to go confidently into my career. Every day I can see how my skills are allowing me to push the field of zoo nutrition forward.

What advice do you have for current students (and future alumni)?
Try harder tomorrow than you did today.