Marburger was president and professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook between 1980 and 1994, and served as professor of physics and electrical engineering until 1997. He received his BA in physics from Princeton University in 1962, and gained his PhD at Stanford University in 1967 for research into nonlinear optics. He has also worked for a number of professional and philanthropic organizations, and made a series of educational television programmes.

Under Marburger's directorship, Brookhaven National Laboratory obtained the first results from its Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, while the laboratory's g-2 experiment - designed to measure the spin of muons - recently cast doubt on the Standard Model of particle physics.