MSU provides students with Autism Spectrum Disorder interactive opportunity to learn physics, explore college options

Contact: Sam Kealhofer

Physics summer camp promotional graphic

STARKVILLE, Miss.—For the second year, Mississippi State is offering a highly interactive summer experience for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, possibly the only camp of its kind in the U.S.

This week, the residential camp is hosting more than a dozen high school students—age 14-19—taking part in hands-on demonstrations, seeing creativity at work in research centers and playing games that drive home scientific concepts. The students are learning about nuclear physics, electricity, aerodynamics, astronomy and robotics, among other topics, leading to the “Physics Olympics” daylong activity this Friday [June 9].

Ben Crider, associate professor in MSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and camp director, said the university’s resources for students with disabilities and cross-departmental collaboration to make this camp a reality is a testament to how faculty and staff work to ensure students have the best experiences possible—whether enrolled in a camp or in university coursework. He said a primary goal of the summer program is to inform students of the “great resources that exist at a four-year university like Mississippi State.”

Crider said many students with ASD may find courses focusing on science and related fields particularly appealing.

“The physics summer school is designed to offer students with ASD a comprehensive postsecondary transition and to teach them physics and socialization skills. This is also a way for them to learn about research projects and consider the option of pursuing a STEM degree at a four-year university,” Crider said.

“By engaging students who are part of this underserved population in physics, the opportunities of studying physics and performing research can be shown to a new generation of highly capable scholars,” he said.

The camp is funded through a prestigious $600,000 National Science Foundation CAREER program grant awarded to Crider in 2019. The NSF project is jointly funded by its Experimental Nuclear Physics Program and the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, known as EPSCoR.

Mississippi State University is taking care of what matters. Learn more at