Steven Girvin joined the Yale faculty in 2001. From 2007 to 2017, he served as deputy provost for research, overseeing research and strategic planning in the basic sciences and engineering across Yale, as well as entrepreneurship, innovation and tech transfer. In 2017, Girvin stepped down from his role to return to teaching and research full time.

Girvin’s research has focused on theoretical studies of quantum many-particle systems. Since coming to Yale, his interests have moved to atomic physics, quantum optics and quantum computation. Girvin’s academic research is currently focused on "circuit QED," the quantum physics of microwave electrical circuits using superconducting Josephson junctions as artificial atoms coupled to individual microwave photons. He works closely with an experimental team at Yale, led by Michel Devoret and Robert Schoelkopf, developing circuit QED into a practical architecture for construction of a quantum computer.

In recognition of his research and contributions to the field, Girvin has been elected as a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences; and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.