Dr Foley is known for her work in developing superconducting devices and systems which have assisted in unearthing more than $6 billion in minerals worldwide.
She will start in the role at the end of September and says her priorities will be promoting science, STEM and women in science.
"Australia’s future prosperity will be fuelled by science,” Dr Foley said. “Science which creates new industries, new jobs and shapes the minds and aspirations of our future leaders.
“I’m looking forward to not just spreading the word, but helping shape the science agenda and raising the profile of the role of women in STEM.”
Dr Foley is currently the deputy director and science director of CSIRO's manufacturing business unit and has been advocating for the communication of science and science education over the past 30 years.
She has helped create LANDTEM, a technology which uses superconductors to detect minerals deep underground, an innovation for which she and her team were awarded the prestigious Clunies Ross award in 2015.
CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said: “Cathy is a great contributor, with a passion for turning excellent science into powerful solutions for Australia.
“I am looking forward to seeing her make this role her own, and bringing the voice of CSIRO science to help Australia navigate a path to prosperity through global disruption.”
Dr Foley received a Public Service Medal on Australia Day 2003 and won the Eureka Prize for the promotion of science the same year.
In 2013 she was also awarded the NSW Premier's Award for Woman of the Year. Other achievements include a Fellow of the Institute of Physics in the UK, past-president of both the Australian Institute of Physics and Science and Technology Australia — that represents 65000 Australian scientists — a Fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and past national winner of the Telstra Business Women’s Award for Innovation in 2009.
Dr Foley joined the CSIRO Division of Applied Physics in 1985 as a national research fellow, and was promoted to senior research scientist in 1991, principal research scientist in 1996, senior principal research scientist in 2000 and chief research scientist in 2008.