Vanderbilt University finance professor Dr. Frank Whaley is the father of the market volatility index or VIX.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The ups and downs of stock markets have thrust worldwide attention on a local professor.
"I think I am the one who coined the term fear gauge," chuckled Dr. Bob Whaley from his third floor office of Vanderbilt's Owens School of Management.
The finance professor is the father of what's called the market volatility index or VIX.
And you hear the word "VIX" a lot when markets are volatile like this past week.
VIX gauges market anxiety with a number representing the outlook over the next 30 days.
It gets that number by measuring the insurance moves investors make to protect portfolios.
"If you look at the VIX since inception, it's probably in the 19-to-20 range, and so what you are seeing now at a level of 40, is twice as high as it's typically been," said Dr. Whaley.
"When we are up 400 one day and then down 515, then up 300 the next-- that is exactly what this is predicting--how much oscillation are you going to see," the professor said, pointing to the VIX levels on his computer screen.
The professor's day during market volatility means interviews from CNBC to NPR to Fortune.com.
In each one, interviewers recount how the VIX concept was developed nearly by Whaley in 1993, but when things are calm on Wall Street, his smartphone won't be beeping much.
"There was certainly no interest from January to June when the VIX hovered between 18-and-20," smiled the professor.
But now the VIX is part of the financial world's lingo for gauging what's going on.
And the VIX has gone down a bit the past few days, to 36, as the markets have gone up.
"Yeah, it makes me more comfortable about what is going to happen," Whaley said Friday afternoon.
But he cautions quickly, "It could jump on Monday, depending on what the world does over the weekend."
And if it does, no doubt investors and commentators will be looking at what the VIX is doing.
Experts say a rebound in retail sales for July pushed the market higher on Friday.
The Dow Jones industrial average finished up 125 points or 1.1%.