Wheatly was a professor of biology at West Virginia University (WVU), where she was named Provost in September 2009 and served in that role from January 2010 to June 2014. Previously she was dean of science and math (2002–09) and chair of biology (1994–2002) at Wright State University. Wheatly ascended the academic ranks at the University of Florida (1984–1994) and undertook postdoctoral training at the University of Calgary, Canada, (1980–1984) after earning both a Ph.D. (1980) and B.Sc. (Hons., 1977) at Birmingham University in the United Kingdom. Born and raised in London, she became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2003.