Dr Foley’s career in physics began with her PhD at Macquarie University on the semiconductor indium nitride. She and her colleagues were one of the first groups to carry out pioneering research that examined the properties of indium nitride in light-sensitive devices, the best-known application being white light emitting diodes used for household low energy lighting. Dr Foley and her team’s most successful application is the LANDTEM™ sensor system used to locate valuable deposits of minerals deep underground, such as nickel sulphide, silver and gold. This has led to mineral discoveries worth more than $6 billion. Dr Foley’s scientific excellence and influential leadership have been recognised with numerous awards and fellowships, including being elected to the Australian Academy of Science in 2020, along with an Order of Australia for service to research science and to the advancement of women in physics. She was elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Science and Engineering in 2008 and was elected as an honorary Fellow of the Australian Institute of Physics in 2019. She was awarded Agenda Setter of the Year in the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards in 2019, the Australian Institute of Physics Medal for Outstanding Service to Physics in 2016, and the Clunies Ross Medal of the Australian Academy of Technological Science and Engineering in 2015. In 2014, she was awarded the International IEEE Award for Continuing and Significant Contributions to Applied Superconductivity, and in 2013 she was named `Woman of the Year’ by the NSW Government.
At CSIRO, she led the development of a Quantum Technology Roadmap for Australia in 2020 championed emerging areas of scientific research, and has been a high-profile commentator on the opportunities presented by science and technology for Australia’s economic recovery and future resilience. Dr Foley commenced as Australia’s ninth Chief Scientist in January 2021.