He has published more than 60 research articles and co-authored a monograph, and was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society in 1989.
At the University of Kentucky, Subbaswamy served as associate dean of arts and sciences and as physics department chair before leaving in 1997 to join the University of Miami as the dean of arts and sciences. He returned to Indiana University Bloomington in July 2000 as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, remaining in that position until 2006. At IU, he oversaw the development of many new programs and a reinvestment in the life sciences. During this time, he was active in the Big Ten's Committee for Institutional Cooperation and served as a coordinator of the Association of American Universities Arts and Sciences Deans’ group.
In July 2006, he came back to the University of Kentucky as provost, where he was engaged in translating its Top 20 Business Plan (drawn up in response to a legislative mandate) into reality. He served a member of the Board of the National Association of College and University Business Officers, and continues to serve on the Board of the Center for International Educational Exchange as well as the Board of the American Association of Colleges and Universities.
Among his primary interests in higher education administration are strategic planning and assessment, interdisciplinary research and training, internationalization, and economic development. He was the founding chair of the Bloomington Life Sciences Partnership and was part of the planning group for the BioCrossroads initiative in Indianapolis. Subbaswamy also served on the executive committee of the World Trade Center of Kentucky during 2005 and 2006, and was a member of the Board of Coldstream Laboratories Inc., a for-profit spin-off of the University of Kentucky.
He assumed the office of Chancellor of Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts on July 1, 2012. One major new initiative has been the establishment of the Institute for Applied Life Sciences with a $95 million investment from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. Apart from his duties on the Amherst campus, Subbaswamy serves on the Board of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts and coordinates the UMass System Cybersecurity Task Force.