The collaborative research lead by Dr. Andersson (Universities Space Research Association), Dr. Jones (University of Minnesota), and Dr. Lazarian (University of Wisconsin, Madison) advances our ability to trace magnetic fields in the interstellar medium and molecular clouds through new multi-wavelength observations and theoretical modeling. It leads to a better understanding of the foregrounds to the cosmic microwave background (CMB) polarization through targeted observations of interstellar grain alignment and modeling based on the leading theoretical paradigm. The combined new quantitative effort addresses interstellar grain alignment mechanisms. A quantitative theory based on radiative alignment torques provides specific, testable predictions of the grain alignment as functions of the environment and grain characteristics. Observations, employing optical and near-infrared (NIR) polarimetry, directly probe the theoretical predictions of the variations of grain alignment efficiencies from the molecular cloud surfaces to the depths where (sub-)mm wave polarized emission is observed. Extensive modeling of the grain alignment, simulating the polarization arising from aligned grains, supports interpretations of the observations. A quantitative understanding of the alignment mechanism is important to understand the structure and strength of the magnetic field (through the geometry of the polarization vectors and the Chandrasekhar-Fermi method, respectively). The impact on related research ranges from models of star formation (through a reliable magnetic field tracing) to the physics of Early Universe (through a reliable separation of polarized dust foreground from the CMB polarized radiation) as well as a better understandinging micro-physics of interstellar dust grains. This project trains young researchers and graduate students in the acquisition, analysis and interpretation of the optical and NIR observations, and on computational models necessary for the study of astrophysical magnetic fields and the nature of interstellar polarization.