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 (UHCO) in 1998, where she has an active research program on ocular surface wound healing, inflammation, infection and immunity. She lectures on physiology, pathology and pharmacology in the UHCO optometry program and teaches basic ocular surface physiology and anatomy to graduate students in the UHCO vision science program, in addition to having supervised several graduate students, including four Ezell Fellowship awardees.
She is an active member of several optometric societies including the Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society and the International Society for Contact Lens Research. She also sits on the editoral board of Eye and Contact Lens, reviews papers for many journals and evaluates grants for several funding agencies.