Rosenbaum received his bachelor"s degree from Syracuse University in 1955, and later his Master of Science Education from Saint Lawrence University in 1957. He returned later to Syracuse for his Masters in 1959 and Doctor of Philosophy in 1963.
His lab at Yale studies cilia and flagella, small tail-like organelles, using the model species Chlamydomonas, a single-cell alga.
The lab is best known for its discovery of intraflagellar transport, a vital molecular process now linked to many human diseases, in 1993. Rosenbaum has continued to pursue intraflagellar transport as his main research interest.