Physicist Dr Cathy Foley will become Australia’s next Chief Scientist when Dr Alan Finkel steps down from the role in December.

Dr Foley has been the CSIRO’s Chief Scientist for the past two years and has made contributions in fields like quantum physics and material sciences with research into semiconductors and high-temperature superconductors.

“This is an extraordinary honour for me,” Dr Foley said in a press conference on Monday.

“The thing that’s really exciting from my perspective is it’s a chance to serve the nation in a way which will allow science and technology to be able to assist the government in addressing the many challenges which we’ve already seen confronting us right now.”

Dr Foley is the second woman to have the title of Australian Chief Scientist since the role was established in 1989.

“I hope I’m going to be in a position to support the government to be able to find the best information, the best knowledge, from across all the science sector in Australia,” Dr Foley said about her new appointment.

“And also to see if I can encourage the youth of today to see that science and technology, engineering and maths are really a way forward for them to be able to have careers that are exiting, well paid, and something which will also contribute to society.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said science and technology was an important aspect of the economic recovery following coronavirus.

“As we recover from COVID-19 and look to rebuild a brighter future, the role of the Chief Scientist has never been more important,” Morrison said.

“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.”

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, said Dr Foley’s skills as a science communicator will help keep science at the forefront in the coming years.

“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,” Andrews said.

“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 will be the country’s Chief Scientist for three years beginning next January.