Cathy Foley is Australia’s next chief scientist


Denham Sadler
Senior Reporter

Renowned physicist Dr Cathy Foley has been appointed as Australia’s next Chief Scientist, with the task of helping science and technology drive the nation’s economic recovery.

Dr Foley, who has served as CSIRO Chief Scientist for the last two years, will replace Dr Alan Finkel, whose five-year term in the role is coming to an end in December.

With a focus on the physics behind superconductors, Dr Foley has worked at CSIRO for 36 years and was earlier this year appointed as a Fellow at the Australian Academy of Science. She is a strong advocate for improving gender diversity in the STEM sectors.

Cathy Foley
The CSIRO’s Cathy Foley has been appointed as Australia’s next Chief Scientist

Following Professor Penny Sackett’s term from 2008 to 2011, Dr Foley is the second woman appointed to the role.

Dr Foley’s three-year term as Australia’s Chief Scientist will begin from January next year. She has described the appointment as an “extraordinary honour”.

“It’s a chance to serve the nation in a way that will allow science and technology to be able to assist the government in addressing the many challenges confronting us right now,” Dr Foley told the media on Monday.

“Also to encourage the youth of today to see STEM are really a way forward to have careers that are exciting and well paid and something that will contribute to society.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled the appointment on Monday morning at CSIRO’s headquarters in Canberra, saying Dr Foley has a mission to improve commercialisation and research translation in Australia.

“Dr Foley has a big task ahead to drive collaboration between industry and the science and research community, as we look to create jobs for the COVID-19 recovery and for the future,” Mr Morrison said.

She will have a prominent role in advising the government on its flagship Modern Manufacturing Strategy, Industry Minister Karen Andrews said.

“Dr Foley is highly regarded in the scientific community, has extensive experience working with government, but most importantly understands how to drive collaboration between industry and researchers,” Ms Andrews said.

“We know science will play a crucial role in helping to create jobs at this critical time, and Dr Foley’s skills as a talent science communicator will help sell that important message.

“Like me, Dr Foley is also a strong advocate for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and her lived experience will make her an important role model for aspiring young scientists.”

Dr Foley’s research has focused on solid-state physics and its applications, including quantum physics, material science and research translation. Her areas of speciality included detecting magnetic fields and locating deposits of minerals.

Dr Foley was awarded the Woman of the Year by the New South Wales Government in 2013, and is also the Chair of the Australian National Fabrication Facility Victorian Node Collaboration Committee and the ARC Steel Hub Advisory Committee.

Dr Finkel has also welcomed the announcement of his successor.

“Cathy is an excellent choice; I have known her for many years and I feel somewhat honoured to be followed in the role by such an esteemed person,” Dr Finkel said.

“I am confident in handing the Chief Scientist’s baton to her safe and experienced hands.”

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