One of the most fundamental challenges pervading theoretical nuclear physics for half a century is to understand the properties of atomic nuclei in terms of the basic forces between nucleons (protons and neutrons). In spite of the progress made in the past, our present understanding still has many gaps and deficiencies. It is the purpose of this project to substantially advance this field of microscopic nuclear structure. First, we will improve the theory of the basic nuclear force--the interaction between two nucleons. We will develop more quantitative nuclear potentials, which can serve as reliable input for microscopic nuclear structure calculations. Moreover, we will also improve the foundation of the nuclear force model: it must be based upon the fundamental theory of strong interactions, quantum chromodynamics (QCD), and the theory of relativity of Albert Einstein. The second stepping stone in our program is the three nucleon problem which can be solved exactly. The final step in our proposed research is nuclear matter--the stuff that atomic nuclei are made of. A topical issue is the question of how the interaction between two nucleons changes in the nuclear matter environment. This information is important for the theory of nuclear reactions involving heavy nuclei (heavy ion collisions).