Dr Mike McWilliams, Chief of CSIRO Exploration & Mining

Dr Mike McWilliams.

Dr Mike McWilliams: Chief, CSIRO Earth Science and Resource Engineering

Dr Mike McWilliams leads the Division's staff at the Australian Resources Research Centre in Perth, the Queensland Centre for Advanced Technologies in Brisbane, and at North Ryde in Sydney and Clayton in Victoria.

  • 2 December 2009 | Updated 14 October 2011

Current activities

Dr Mike McWilliams is Chief of the CSIRO Earth Science and Resource Engineering Division, formed from the amalgamation of the Exploration and Mining and the Petroleum Resources Divisions. Prior to that, he was Chief of the Exploration and Mining Division, a role he has held since May 2008.

As Chief of the Division, Dr McWilliams leads our staff in the development and transfer of new technologies and ideas that will solve future technical challenges in the Australian minerals and energy industries.

CSIRO Earth Science and Resource Engineering is focussing on changing mineral exploration, with new techniques enabling explorers to predict and locate mineralised targets with greater accuracy, whilst improving safety, productivity and sustainability in underground and open cut coal and metalliferous mines.

In the area of petroleum research and development, the Division's research efforts are targeted towards maximising the efficiency of oil and gas exploration and production. The Division also plays an integral role in developing technologies for sustainable energy sources such as geothermal energy and to facilitate a low emissions energy future with the geological storage of carbon dioxide.  

Dr McWilliams is an experimental physicist with a well-developed interest in geology and chemistry as applied to earth science.

Dr McWilliams sees CSIRO’s engineers and scientists as the kernel of our organisation. His principal leadership role is to enable staff to pursue their research, develop their capabilities, and to provide guidance and direction as needed.

Dr McWilliams believes CSIRO has a responsibility to help industry deliver critical energy and mineral resources in an environmentally responsible manner, and that the Division of Earth Science and Resource Engineering is well positioned to make significant contributions in these important areas.


Dr McWilliams is an experimental physicist with a well-developed interest in geology and chemistry as applied to earth science. His professional career prior to joining CSIRO was devoted to research and teaching in geophysics and geochemistry, with an emphasis on isotope geochemistry, geomagnetism, potential field methods, rock physics and tectonics. One of his specialities is instrument design and development, from SQUID magnetometers to noble gas mass spectrometers.

Prior to joining CSIRO, Dr McWilliams was Professor of Applied Physics at Curtin University and Director of the John de Laeter Centre of Mass Spectrometry from 2006 to 2008.

In 1972 he applied to the University of Toronto with the goal of studying electromagnetic methods, but became attracted to the new and exciting topic of plate tectonics and its potential application to Precambrian terranes.

Following MSc research in Canada, he moved to the Australian National University in 1974 to pursue PhD research on Neoproterozoic paleomagnetism, tectonics and paleoclimate in Australia and Africa. In 1977 he joined Stanford University, where he started as a Postdoctoral Research Affiliate and retired as Emeritus Professor.

Academic Qualifications

Dr McWilliams has the following qualifications:

  • Bachelor of Science (Physics) from St Lawrence University, United States, 1972
  • Master of Science (Geophysics) from the University of Toronto, Canada, 1974
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Geophysics) from the Australian National University, 1978.


Dr McWilliam's achievements include:

  • author or co-author of more than 140 papers in refereed international journals and book chapters
  • consultant to 38 companies, government organisations and universities engaged in minerals and energy exploration and production, earth science research and development, electronics and aerospace technologies and scientific publishing
  • supervisor and mentor to 20 postgraduate students and postdoctoral research fellows, each of whom has developed an outstanding professional career in research and teaching in the university, public and industry sectors
  • together with colleagues and students, established and developed an internationally recognised centre for mass spectrometry, isotope geology and geochemistry at Stanford University.

Find out more about our work in CSIRO Earth Science and Resource Engineering.