Professor McDermott was awarded her PhD in Biochemistry by the University of London, Imperial College in 1991 then went on to conduct post-doctoral research at Cornell University, McMaster University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She joined the faculty of the University of Houston, College of Optometry in 1998, where she remained for almost two decades teaching optometry students, supervising graduate students and carrying out research on ocular surface wound healing, inflammation, infection and immunity. In 2017 she returned to her native UK where she is now a Professor at Northumbria University. Here she teaches immunology and pathology to biomedical science students and continues her research on the ocular surface in health and disease. She is an active member of several optometric societies including the Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society, the International Society for Contact Lens Research and is a Fellow of the British Contact Lens Association. She also sits on the editorial board of Eye and Contact Lens, reviews papers for many journals and evaluates grants for several national and international funding agencies.