Ian was born in Montrose, Angus and educated at the University of Glasgow. He continued to work there in teaching and research until he joined BP in 1976. After 20 years touring the world in the hunt for oil and gas, Ian then led BP's global exploration efforts until his retirement in 2007. Ian was appointed Visiting Professor in Geosciences at Princeton University in 2007. He is currently a non-executive director of Serica Energy PLC, an independent oil and gas exploration company listed in London and Toronto, and Spectraseis AG, a privately owned oil sector service company, based in Zurich, Switzerland.