Rothman earned his high school diploma from Pomfret School, then graduated from the ivy academia in 1967 then received his Bachelor of Arts in physics at Yale University in 1971 and his Doctor of Philosophy in biological chemistry at Harvard in 1976 working with Eugene Patrick Kennedy.
He is the Fergus F. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Sciences at Yale University, the Chairman of the Department of Cell Biology at Yale School of Medicine, and the Director of the Nanobiology Institute at the Yale West Campus. Rothman is also concurrently serving as adjunct professor of physiology and cellular biophysics at Columbia University. and a research professor at the Institute of Neurology, University College London (University College London). Following his Phd, Rothman did postdoctoral research with Harvey Lodish at Massachusetts Institute of Technology working on glycosylation of membrane proteins.
He moved to the Department of Biochemistry at Stanford University in 1978.
He was at Princeton University, from 1988 to 1991, before coming to New York to found the Department of Cellular Biochemistry and Biophysics at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where he also served as vice chairman of Sloan-Kettering Institute. In 2003, he left Sloan-Kettering to become a professor of physiology at Columbia University"s College of Physicians and Surgeons and the head of Columbia"s Center for Chemical Biology.
He moved from Columbia to Yale in 2008, retaining a part-time appointment at Columbia. In 1995, Rothman joined the Amersham plc scientific advisory board.
When Amersham was acquired by General Electric Healthcare in 2003, Rothman was appointed as the Chief Science Advisor to General Electric Healthcare.
Rothman"s research details how vesicles—tiny sac-like structures that transport hormones, growth factors, and other molecules within cells—know how to reach their correct destination and where and when to release their contents. This cellular trafficking underlies many critical physiological functions, including the propagation of the cell itself in division, communication between nerve cells in the brain, secretion of insulin and other hormones in the body, and nutrient uptake. Defects in this process lead to a wide variety of conditions, including diabetes and infectious diseases such as botulism.
Fellow: American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, National Academy of Sciences (Richard Lounsbery award 1997). Member: European Molecular Biology Organization (foreign associate 1995), Institute Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, Japanese Biochemical Society (honorary).