Karel Svoboda received a Ph.D. in biophysics from Harvard University (1994), where he measured the molecular movements and forces of individual kinesin molecules, a molecular motor common to all eukaryotic cells. He performed his postdoctoral work at Bell Laboratories, where he focused on synaptic and dendritic function in the cortex probed with new optical methods (1994–1997). From 1997 until 2006, he was a professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and, since 2000, he has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. At Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the Svoboda lab developed and exploited methods to track synaptic transmission and plasticity at the level of individual connections, even in the intact brain. In 2006, the Svoboda lab moved to the newly established Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus, where Svoboda is a group leader.
Over the last ten years, the Svoboda lab has investigated the structure, function and plasticity of cortical circuits in behaving mice, mainly in the context of active tactile sensation. Current areas of investigation include: i) deciphering the neural code underlying tactile sensation at the level of defined cell types and individual spikes; ii) the cortical mechanisms of motor planning and movement execution based on tactile evidence; iii) the interactions of the cortex with thalamus and basal ganglia underlying tactile decision behaviors; iv) development of new optical, molecular and behavioral methods for circuit neuroscience.