Mark McDermott studied undergraduate psychology between 1978 and 1981 in what was then University College Cardiff (UCC) (now University of Wales, Cardiff). Thereafter, he took a postgraduate certificate of education (PGCE) in primary school education in the School of Education, UCC. In 1982, he was awarded a University of Wales PhD scholarship and undertook work which later emerged in thesis form as "Rebelliousness in adolescence and young adulthood", as supervised by social psychologist Dr Terry Honess. During the course of this work, he visited the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA for two semesters (1984–85), where he learned about questionnaire development from cross-cultural psychologist Professor Harry Triandis. From 1987 to 1989 he completed an MSc as a trainee clinical psychologist at the University of Manchester. While there, he conducted research at the Wythenshawe Hospital Regional Cardiothoracic unit (supervised by cardiologist Colin Bray and clinical psychologist Professor Reg Beech), culminating in his MSc thesis "Forms of hostility as risk-factors for coronary artery disease" and two peer-reviewed journal papers. Since taking up a lectureship in Health Psychology at UEL over thirty years ago in 1989, Mark has maintained his ongoing interest in the biopsychosocial modelling of health and illness. Latterly, he has extended his research activity to encompass psychometric work on topics in mental health, specifically: the public understanding of depression; mortality awareness; radicalism; and scientifically unsubstantiated beliefs.
Throughout his career he has also maintained research activity on individual differences in rebelliousness within the context of Reversal Theory, collaborating periodically with the theory's progenitor, Professor Michael Apter, and latterly in work ongoing as a predictor of resistance to health persuasion messages. An additional strand of his health psychology research has been investigation of social cognition models as predictors of alcohol consumption, in particular risky, single-occasion drinking. This work was conducted in conjunction with postdoctoral researcher Dr Vered Murgraff and resulted in the publication of a randomised control trial as funded by the Alcohol Education and Research Council: a brief evidence-based intervention targeting motivational and volitional antecedents specified by the theory of planned behaviour and implementation intention theory.
From February of 2003 to September of 2011, Mark was the UEL School of Psychology Leader of Research (the second in the School's history), wherein he facilitated the research and scholarly activity of academic colleagues within the School and took overall responsibility for postgraduates by research. Mark was responsible for co-ordinating the School's submission of 23 academic staff to the 2008 national Research Assessment Exercise. This resulted in a quadrupling of school research income from this source (relative to the result of 2001 Exercise). He was promoted to Professor in 2008. Thereafter, as a member of the School Research Management Team, he helped prepare the School to engage with its successor, the Research Excellence Framework (REF), chairing the School's REF Advisory Group. In 2014, Mark embarked on the role of PhD Programme Leader for the School through to 2018 and contributed as UEL Psychology lead to the successful bid to the ESRC for recurrent PhD studentships over six years from 2017 onwards - with Doctoral Training Partnership consortia colleagues at University College London and Birkbeck College. From 2015 to 2018 Mark was a UEL Staff Governor, contributing oversight and constructive scrutiny of decision making on the University's Board of Governors. He continues to lead well-received undergraduate modules on health psychology and the psychology of mental health, whilst also supervising PhD students.