Baxter obtained her B.S. degree from Elon University in North Carolina and completed her Ph.D. in Genetics and Molecular Biology in the Biochemistry Department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She did post-doctoral research in biochemistry and biophysics at Washington State University, focused on structural interactions between proteins and DNA in DNA repair. DNA enzymology is her first love.
For more than twenty-five years, she has been a Professor of Biology at Westminster College, where she studies the microbial communities of Great Salt Lake, applying her background in cellular biochemistry to the physiology of halophilic microorganisms. This expertise has led to many discoveries relating to DNA damage and repair mechanisms, carotenoid photobiology, astrobiology, microbial diversity, microbial mercury methylation, and microbialite formation.
She founded and directs Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College, which serves to connect people to Great Salt Lake through research and education. Baxter recently co-authored the first children's book on Great Salt Lake. She and her colleagues also published the first book focused on the biology of Great Salt Lake. (See links below)