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Samantha Hartmann

BMMB Graduate Student-Hafenstein Lab
Image of Samantha Hartmann
The Hafenstein Lab

About Me

Attended East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania from 2015-2018 where a B.S. in Biochemistry and a B.S. in Chemical Biotechnology were obtained. While pursuing undergraduate education, gained industry experience working in the quality control department of BioSpectra, a pharmaceutical manufacturing company that supplies active and excipient grade pharmaceutical ingredients. When I am not in the lab you can find me outdoors in nature somewhere or playing volleyball, softball or soccer!


Research Interest

Structural virology using cryogenic electron microscopy (cryoEM) with a focus on papillomaviruses.


Research Summary

Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are cancer-causing viruses are associated with over 250,000 deaths a year. HPV is a serious health burden that causes over 90% of anal and cervical cancers, 70% of vaginal and vulvar cancers, 70% of oropharyngeal cancers, and 60% of penile cancers. Currently for vaccines, each HPV type that is protected against is incorporated into the vaccine individually. Therefore, the vaccine started as a 2-valent, then became a 4-valent, and is not a 9-valent vaccine. The current vaccine protects against the most common cancer-causing types, as well as the most common symptomatic types, but does not protect against all cancer-causing types of HPV.

HPVs are icosahedral double stranded DNA viruses that are ~55nm in diameter. HPVs can cause warts on cutaneous epithelium, while in the anogenital region these viruses can cause both genital warts and various forms of cancer in men or woman. There are over 100 distinct HPV genotypes that have been identified so far, some of which are carcinogenic, for example, HPV16, 18, 31, 33 and 35. Although the recently developed vaccines protect younger people from nine of the most common HPV types (HPV6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, 58), there is still a big demand on broad-spectrum vaccines to protect people from full range of cancer-causing HPVs. Development of such vaccines will be facilitated by deeper understanding of infectious mechanics together with the conformational changes in virus structure. Neutralizing antibodies are one of most important tools to do this job. Identification of neutralization-sensitive epitopes on the capsid protein structures (conformational epitopes) may promote the understanding of the entry pathway and development of improved recombinant vaccines. 

Image of a human papillomavirus capsid protein

When studying HPVs in a lab setting, there are different models that are used across the field to study HPVs. Many of these models will use the human papillomavirus capsid protein with an alternative genome packaged inside. Some common examples are cottontail rabbit papillomavirus genome, or plasmid DNA of similar genome size. Looking at the models within the field it is important to determine structural changes within the models that can be caused by the non-native DNA that is packaged as the genome into the viral capsid.

There are currently no effective treatments for HPV infections and the potential for malignant transformation has a serious effect on public health. My research in the Hafenstein lab is aimed to evaluate the alternative animal models and VLPs used for HPV research, as well as understanding HPV-host interaction.


Programs and Training Centers


University Committees


Honors and Awards

  • American Institute of Chemists (AIC) Undergraduate Award – 2018