Koch grew up in Amsterdam, Bonn, Ottawa, and Rabat. Having studied Physics and Philosophy in Tübingen, he was awarded a Master of Physics in 1980 and obtained his PhD from the Max-Planck-Institut for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen in 1982. Then he spent four years as a post-doctoral fellow at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and at the Brain and Cognitive Sciences department at MIT. In 1986 he joined the California Institute of Technology as Assistant and then Full Professor of Computation and Neural Systems. He was a visiting Professor at the Institute for Neuroinformatics at the ETH and the University of Zürich, Switzerland, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Engineering at Korea University in Seoul, Korea. In 2011, he became chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, where he leads a ten year, large-scale, high through-put effort to build brain observatories to map, analyze, and understand the cerebral cortex.