Madhu is one of the best researchers of his generation having done fundamental work in PCPs and coding theory for which he received the 2002 Nevanlinna award. He has had a number of extraordinary Ph.D.s and from what I hear an excellent teacher. Even though Madhu is just moving a few blocks physically, this marks a great gain for Microsoft and a loss for MIT and academics.
I won't comment on why Madhu is leaving MIT but I have a couple of other thoughts:
- With all of my non-academic friends worried about their jobs in our current financial situation, I feel quite safe with my tenured position. To give up a tenure in this economy seems risky though someone like Madhu could always find a job.
- Nice to see Microsoft willing to make a commitment with a new hire of a pure theorist.
- MIT, where I got my Ph.D., has seen the loss of few great theorists over the past couple of years: Dan Spielman, Ronitt Rubinfeld and Santosh Vempala as well as Madhu. Nevertheless MIT has hired some strong junior people such as Scott Aaronson and Jon Kelner and remains an amazingly strong place in theory, though the field is leveling.