The Hersperger Lab – Albright College

The Hersperger Lab

Investigations into host-virus relationships.

Adam R. Hersperger, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biology
Chair of the Faculty

Julie Schrey ’21 treated cells with a protein derived from Ectromelia virus to find out if the protein could act as a growth factor and induce DNA synthesis, which occurs during S phase of the cell cycle. The large number of S phase cells (red, EdU-positive cells) were not seen in the untreated cells (images not shown above); therefore, the virus protein does act as a growth factor. This assay makes use of immunofluorescence microscopy.

Ectromelia virus expressing GFP (green fluorescent protein) can be used to identify and track virus-infected cells growing in cultured cells. This image shows a cluster of infected cells, which is referred to as a “plaque”.

Adam H photo

I was born and raised in Erie, PA. After high school, I attended Bucknell University and obtained a B.S. degree as a Cell Biology and Biochemistry major. After college, I joined the Cell and Molecular Biology graduate group at the University of Pennsylvania. My doctoral work focused on the study of CD8+ T-cell responses in various types of HIV-infected patients. While this area of research was quite interesting and fruitful, I realized it would be very difficult to continue in the field of HIV immunology at a small college or university, which was my ultimate goal. Consequently, I sought a lab for my post-doctoral training that investigated virus biology and immunology using experimental systems tractable in an undergraduate setting. As such, I joined the lab of Laurence Eisenlohr, VMD, PhD, an expert in the study of antigen processing and T-cell responses in the context of viral infections. It was in this setting that I learned about ectromelia virus (ECTV), a poxvirus that is a natural pathogen of mice. ECTV is non-pathogenic in humans and an ideal virus to study with undergraduate student collaborators. Like all poxviruses, ECTV encodes numerous proteins that modulate host processes, including immune responses. The study of host-pathogen interactions, in particular immune evasion mechanisms, has become a major focus of my research. I currently call Pottstown, PA home. I have two incredible children that keep me very busy. In my spare time, I enjoy lifting weights, gardening, cycling, and visiting microbreweries.

Current students in the laboratory:

  • I am currently recruiting new student researchers.

List of some former members of the team:

  • Megan Keller, class of 2023, has begun her doctoral training at Thomas Jefferson University
  • Leah Strausser, class of 2023, has begun a one-year medical laboratory scientist training program
  • Julie Schrey, class of 2021, currently working as a laboratory technician; plans on applying to graduate school soon
  • Kaylyn Haan, class of 2019, currently a student at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London
  • Rebecca Morgis, class of 2019, currently a student at Penn State Hershey School of Medicine
  • Julia Pevarnik, class of 2019, currently working as a laboratory technician in a fertility clinic
  • Sarah Boothman, class of 2018, currently a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University
  • Tiffany Frey, class of 2017, recently earned her Ph.D. and is now working at Moderna, Inc.
  • Colton Ryan, class of 2016, currently a student at Penn State Hershey School of Medicine
  • Devin Fisher, class of 2015, recently earned her Ph.D. and is now working at the National Institutes of Health
  • Erin Hand, class of 2015, successfully obtained her Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree

Recent peer-reviewed publications:

  • Morgis RA*, Haan K*, Schrey JM*, Zimmerman RM*, Hersperger AR. The epidermal growth factor ortholog of ectromelia virus activates EGFR/ErbB1 and demonstrates mitogenic function in vitro. Virology 2021.
  • Forsyth KS, Roy NH, Peauroi E, DeHaven BC, Wold ED, Hersperger AR, Burkhardt JK, Eisenlohr LC. Ectromelia-encoded virulence factor C15 specifically inhibits antigen presentation to CD4+ T cells post peptide loading. PLOS Pathogens 2020.
  • Frey TR*, Forsyth KS, Sheehan MM*, DeHaven BC, Pevarnik JG*, Hand ES*, Pizzorno MC, Eisenlohr LC, Hersperger AR. Ectromelia virus lacking the E3L ortholog is replication-defective and nonpathogenic but does induce protective immunity in a mouse strain susceptible to lethal mousepox. Virology 2018.
  • Frey TR*, Lehmann MH, Ryan CM*, Pizzorno MC, Sutter G, Hersperger AR. Ectromelia virus accumulates less double-stranded RNA compared to vaccinia virus in BS-C-1 cells. Virology 2017.
  • Hand ES*, Haller SL, Peng C Rothenburg S, Hersperger AR. Ectopic expression of vaccinia virus E3 and K3 cannot rescue ectromelia virus replication in rabbit RK13 cells. PLOS ONE 2015.
  • Hersperger AR, Siciliano NA, DeHaven BC, Snook AE, Eisenlohr LC. Epithelial immunization induces polyfunctional CD8+ T-cells and optimal mousepox protection. Journal of Virology 2014.
  • Siciliano NA, Hersperger AR, Lacuanan AM, Xu R, Sidney J, Sette A, Sigal LJ, Eisenlohr LC. Impact of distinct poxvirus infections on the specificities and functionalities of CD4+ T-cell responses. Journal of Virology 2014.

* an undergraduate student co-author

Megan Keller ’23 presented at the 2022 meeting of the American Society for Virology held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Megan Keller presents at virology conference


Rebecca Morgis ’19 and Julia Pevarnik ’19 presented their posters at the 2018 meeting of the American Society for Virology held at the University of Maryland at College Park.


Tiffany Frey ’17 and Maura Sheehan ’17 presented their posters at the 2016 meeting of the American Society for Virology held at Virginia Tech University.